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House Bill 512 — Charter school lottery

House Bill 512 — Charter school lottery

Wayne Hoffman
February 26, 2020

Bill description: House Bill 512 would allow public charter schools to have lotteries weighted toward certain groups. 

Rating: -2

Does it increase government redistribution of wealth?

House Bill 512 would cause some taxpayers to pay for public charter schools “weighted” toward certain groups, if the school’s petition calls for it. In other words, taxpayers whose children may not qualify for charter admission would find themselves paying for a school that gives “preference admission for … educationally disadvantaged students: students living at or below one hundred eighty-five percent (185%) of the federal poverty level, students who are homeless or in foster care, children with disabilities as defined in section 33-2001, Idaho Code, students with limited English proficiency, and students who are at-risk as defined in section 33-1001, Idaho Code.”


Does it violate the principle of equal protection under the law? 

When public resources are directed to the government’s “priority” populations, it causes an unequal application of law based on arbitrarily chosen criteria. In this case, the bill calls for students to be treated differently based solely on socio-economic circumstances. We’d similarly frown upon legislation that gave lottery preferences to groups based on race, national origin, sexual orientation, and so on. 


Analyst note: This bill raises a lot of fascinating policy questions for legislators. By example: For many years, Americans have fought to create public schools that are accessible to all students, regardless of those students' backgrounds. Does this bill contemplate a new “separate but equal” paradigm? Are there secondary effects to consider? Does Idaho wish to pull poor students out of traditional schools simply because they’re poor? Should students who are financially better off be pushed out of a lottery and denied education choice simply because of their economic condition? Will creating schools that target students based on socioeconomic standing deny them connections with students of differing backgrounds, challenges, and upbringings?

Use the form below to share your thoughts on House Bill 512 with the Senate Education Committee:

[contact-form-7 id="211039" title="HB 512 form"]

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