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House panel clears removal of charter school caps

House panel clears removal of charter school caps

Dustin Hurst
February 22, 2012
Dustin Hurst
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February 22, 2012

For several years, lawmakers in the House have approved measures to remove Idaho’s cap on charter school creation, set at six per year.

This year, the House Education Committee has begun another run at cap removal, though the latest version includes a new hitch.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Post Falls, would eliminate the statewide cap of six per year, but would also allow multiple charter schools to be formed within districts each year, a huge break from the established process. As it stands, only one charter school is allowed to be established each year.

Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, is working with Nonini to push the bill and says the cap stands in the way ofIdahoreceiving federal and private grants to aid charter schools.

Diane Demarest, head of the Idaho Charter School Network, warned thatIdaho, once a leader in school choice, is no longer seen as a charter-friendly state.

Penni Cyr, president of the Idaho Education Association (IEA), explained that while her group supports charter schools, she believes the bill goes too far. She also said that the IEA supported removal of the cap a few years ago believing public schools could learn from innovative practices used in charter schools. She said the idea sharing just hasn’t happened.

Karen Echeverria of the Idaho School Boards Association sided with Cyr, saying Nonini’s bill would mean less regulation of charter schools.

Noting that argument, Rep. Sue Chew, D-Boise, moved to send the bill to the House amending order to leave the one-per-district rule in state law, but the maneuver was defeated on a 4-13 vote.

Rep. Linden Batemen, R-Idaho Falls, a former educator, said that while he supports charter schools, he believesthat too many of them open in a single year in one district would be devastating to public schools. He also said that charter schools take additional resources from local districts in a time when funding is scarce. “I just think this is not the year to remove the cap per district,” Bateman warned.

The bill passed on a 12-5 vote and now heads to the House floor.

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