Facts About Idaho Charter Schools

Charter schools are open to all students. They are:

  • non-selective in enrollment; there are no admission tests or admissions requirements.
  • often designed to serve low-income and other under-served populations.
  • appealing to students whose needs are not being met by traditional schools.
  • frequently over-enrolled; that is, more students apply than the school can accommodate. In that event, a lottery is held to determine admission.
  • non-religious and tuition-free.
  • 69% of Idaho charters, in comparisons across six categories, have demographics that are reflective of those in their respective districts. More work is needed in this area.

Charter schools are pioneers and innovators.

  • Free of state and district regulations, charters can provide more options for parents and children by allowing creative teachers and educational leaders to design schools that better serve particular populations.
  • Charters can create a longer school day and year.
  • Charters can limit class and school size. Charter designers often heed to the research supporting a small school which states that small schools are safer and better able to nurture a community of learners than are large schools.
  • Charters select their own curriculum design. By starting from scratch, they can establish achievement-oriented cultures and choose staff to best support these structures from day one.
  • Charter schools are mission-driven schools created by educators who envision a school committed to a particular purpose and philosophy.

Charter schools are appealing to teachers.

  • Charters can harness the often stifled energy of innovative and experienced educators.
  • Because they are often founded and managed by teachers, charters are more conscientious to the needs of students and teachers than are large systems-based districts. For example, they frequently build in more time for professional development and planning, allow teachers input in management decisions, have policies against substitute teachers, etc.
  • Many charters have added incentives to their compensation structures such as group bonuses, pay for knowledge, salaries that exceed those in the authorizing district, and overtime.

Charter schools are meeting parents' needs by providing education CHOICE.

  • Charter school legislation honors the right of parents to make informed choices about their child's education by tying state education money to the child, not to the neighborhood school.
  • Each of Idaho's charter schools is distinct. They are all seeking innovative ways to run a public school, giving parents public school choice, proving that "one size does not fit all."
  • Because parents CHOOSE charter schools, many feel a sense of ownership that, in turn, results in increased involvement and higher achievement.
  • In a Fall 2000 study, 50% more charter parents in Arizona graded their child's school "A" or "A+" while only 38% of parents in the remaining Arizona district schools gave their schools those grades. Satisfaction rate is 50% higher, relative to parents in traditional public schools.
  • A 2001 study in Minnesota and Texas, found 85-90% of charter school parents giving their child's school an "A" or a "B." Only 70% of public school parents in these states gave this same rating.
  • Many charter proponents believe that parent and community satisfaction, as demonstrated by good grades and long waiting lists for good schools is the highest form of accountability.

Charter schools are publicly funded.

  • Charter schools are public schools.
  • Charters nationwide are funded at 75% of the level of traditional schools; yet the majority of them perform better than or equal to the nearest public school on the standardized tests and receive a higher grade from parents for quality than their traditional public school counterparts.
  • Charters must pay for their own facilities through fundraising and/or their operating dollars.
  • Although charter schools are funded on a per pupil basis with public dollars, each school's educational community and foundation communities have been generous in helping these new schools establish quality programs.

Charter schools play an important part in school reform.

  • Charters are integral to continued Idaho school reform. In states that have large numbers of charter schools such as Michigan, Massachusetts, and Arizona, there is evidence that school districts competing directly with charter schools for students are developing more and better options to attract and retain students. This is one intent of Idaho charter school legislation.
  • In 1991, there was one charter school in the nation; in 1996, there were 250. Today, there are more than 2400 charter schools in 34 states and Washington, D.C.
  • In Idaho, there are about the same number of students on waiting lists to attend the state's charters as are actually enrolled in thema statement to the fact that parents want these schools.
  • Nearly 600,000 students attend charter schools nationwide; there are over 3200 students enrolled in Idaho's 16 Charter Schools (slightly less than 1% of Idaho's public school children) with over 2800 students on the waiting lists of these Idaho schools.

Charter schools have a record of student achievement.

  • "Charter Schools are helping to boost accountability, public school choice, and most importantly, student achievement." Richard Riley, former U.S. Secretary of Education.
  • A November, 2000 Center for Urban Education report found that of the 53 valid research studies done on charter schools, 50 found that charters overall have proven innovative, accountable, and successful.
  • Most charter schools are succeeding in their mandate. When they fail, they are closed, not unlike a business. To date, less than 3% of charters have been closed.
  • 4% - 30% of Idaho charter school students in grades K-3 scored higher on the Idaho Reading Indicator than their traditional public school counterparts statewide.

Charters are committed to improving public education.

  • As charter schools become more a part of their communities, they have started to demonstrate and share strong educational practices with other public schools.
  • Charters work through a unique trade-off of "autonomy for accountability." Some have suggested that district schools be offered the same deal.
  • By experimenting with new measures of student achievement, charters are encouraging districts to look beyond standardized test scores for proof of student success.
  • Charters are building new models of community and parent involvement because, as schools of choice, they can see the importance of keeping their customers satisfied. In Idaho, their customers are parents, students, teachers along with a Board of Directors and district officials who strictly monitor operations and student achievement.

Charter schools are not vouchers for private schools.

  • Unlike schools in proposed voucher programs, charter schools are held accountable for academic results by their authorizer (local school board in Idaho). Failure to meet or exceed state standards as specified in the charter means that the authorizer may revoke the charter.
  • Charter schools are schools of choice that are publicly funded and not affiliated with religious institutions.
  • Vouchers are government-issued certificates for parents to redeem for a private schools education for their children.
  • Charter schools are subject to the same safety regulations, civil rights regulations, standardized testing, special education and financial accountability as other public schools.
  • Unlike some private schools, charter schools are open to enrollment of any and all students.
  • Idaho's charter school law prohibits the conversion of private or parochial schools to charter schools.

Nationwide, charter schools are operated by an exciting array of non-profit groups.

  • Idaho's law permits any group or person to petition to start a charter school. Most charters in Idaho have been launched by groups of teachers, universities, parents and community activists.
  • On a national level, cultural institutions, educational foundations, and community development corporations have all expressed interest in creating and/or created charter schools.
  • In Washington DC, the Children's Museum runs a charter school.
  • Some charter school boards contract with a for-profit education management company to manage business aspects of their school.
  • As we create more charters, communities will be able to tap a variety of providers to create schools where student success is more clearly defined and purposefully sought.

Source: Idaho Charter School Network (ICSN)

501 E. Baybrook Ct.
Boise, ID 83706
(208) 424-2604