September Newsletter

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Breaking news: Please everyone take a look at this article discussing Idaho's public school funding formula. There are changes on the horizon for how we fund our students schools K-12. 

We NEED parents to help us make sure that the money follows the child and to help talk to legislatures to keep our schools alive. We are holding a meeting this Thursday, September 28th @4:30PM to talk more about the issues facing our students and ways we can help!

The meeting will be held at the Idaho Wheat Commission building in downtown Boise near the Capitol. 
821 W. State Street
Boise, ID 83702

Please call Murphy Olmstead at (208) 871-3885 if you're planning to attend.



Kevin Richert 09/22/2017

It took more than a year, but the work of the Legislature’s school funding formula committee began to take shape Friday.

Lawmakers agreed to pursuing an enrollment-based funding model — a nuanced but significant shift from the long-standing status quo.

The premise is that an enrollment-based model is more student-based. In other words, the state’s K-12 dollars should more easily follow kids through the K-12 system.
So what does all this mean? And what did lawmakers discuss Friday? Here’s a primer.

What are we doing now, and why? Idaho’s school funding metric is “average daily attendance.” School districts and charter schools tally up the average number of kids in their classrooms. The state then transfers that number into classroom “support units” and divvies up tax dollars by unit.

Idaho has used an ADA metric for years, hoping it will give schools incentive to keep a close eye on day-to-day student attendance. The “support unit” model also provides rural schools with more money per student — since small districts still need to hire teachers and maintain classrooms for smaller numbers of students.

And enrollment-based funding? The math is simple enough. Now, districts and charters would tally up the number of kids they have enrolled. Then, the state would send out money per student.

What’s the advantage of enrollment-based funding? There are several, committee members say.

Follow Idaho EdNews on Facebook for the latest news »

An enrollment-based model syncs up better with “mastery-based” learning — a move that allows students to move through the school system based on subject knowledge, not classroom seat time. Under an enrollment-based model, schools won’t be penalized if students take offsite career-technical courses. And schools can get partial funding for a student who spends a period or two on campus — such as, for example, a home-schooler who comes to high school for orchestra or choir.

So, it’s that simple? Maybe, maybe not.

States can always use line items to earmark money — and Idaho has line items that cover everything from classroom technology to hiring IT staff.

But the more money the state puts into line items, the less money it has to put into the per-student funding base. And members of the funding formula committee are hoping to streamline the budget, reducing line items and giving schools additional local control.

Have other states made a similar move? A few years ago, California ditched a restrictive K-12 budget that was replete with line items. Now the nation’s largest state distributes K-12 dollars per student.

Dollars vary by grade level: Schools get $6,947 per student in fourth through sixth grade, for example, and $8,505 per high school student. Schools get additional funding for students in poverty, foster children and students with limited English skills.

To read the entire article follow this link 

The next Committee meeting will be on Monday, October 16th. To learn where it will be held at and what time please go to this link to find out more!


August Newsletter


Don't miss out! Information Session this Friday!

See below


Recent Articles:


A Massachusetts Teachers Union Votes to Kill a Successful Charter School, as Families Scramble for Answers

           Near the start of the Haverhill School Committee meeting last month, Devan Ferreira stepped to the mic to ask a few questions about the future of the school attended by two — and soon three, she hopes — of her children.

Ferreira’s kids attend a rare kind of school allowed by Massachusetts law called a Horace Mann charter, which is overseen by the local school district. Like other charter schools of its type, Silver Hill Horace Mann Charter School is unionized, and when the school’s charter is up for renewal, the local teachers union — the Haverhill Education Association — must sign off.

A decade ago, Silver Hill was a regular Haverhill public school, performing so poorly it was slated for state takeover. The principal who was brought in to turn the school around petitioned successfully to make it an in-district charter school so the staff could decide for themselves what students needed. Within three years, it was one of the most successful schools in the district. Its teachers were proud to vote yes the first time the charter came up for renewal in 2013 — and voted overwhelmingly in favor of applying for a second renewal last fall.

But earlier this year, a new union president from another school did something unprecedented — at least in Haverhill, a city of 61,000 in the northeasternmost corner of the state. After consulting with the union’s lawyer, Lisa Begley decided to extend the vote to teachers in Haverhill’s other schools. The union then circulated materials arguing — inaccurately, in the eyes of the school’s leadership — that Silver Hill’s success came at the expense of the other schools.

In June, the union voted against renewing the charter, sending the Silver Hill community into shock. Massachusetts requires schools that are closing to let parents know what happens next within 10 days, but Ferreira and her neighbors had gone weeks without answers by the time they decided to raise their concerns at the July 27 district board meeting.

“We are parents, we are planners, we are homeowners, we are participating voters here in Haverhill, and to leave more than 400 families without answers for what their school will look like,” Ferreira, one of the leaders of a foundation that raises funds for the school’s operations, said during the televised meeting. “It’s not OK that it’s taken the whole summer for this to get going.”

Superintendent James Scully snapped at her. School would start in September as usual, he said, and nothing would change in the coming year — but he couldn’t make promises about the future.

Legally, nothing can change for a little while, Ferreira pointed out, because the school’s charter doesn’t expire until the end of the coming school year. It’s what happens after that the parents are worried about.

Scully barked again, repeating himself. Mayor James Fiorentini jumped in, proposing a meeting between the superintendent and Silver Hill parents. After some contentious back-and-forth with Fiorentini, Scully said he’d sit down with the parents if the mayor would agree to attend.

“We’re not going to change anything,” he said for a third time, “but I’m not going to make guarantees.”

Scully did not return calls seeking comment for this story, but it’s not hard to imagine why he would be on the defensive. If he does what the parents are asking and keeps the features that make Silver Hill unique and successful, he won’t satisfy the union, which wants the school to revert to a neighborhood school. If he makes the sweeping changes the union argued were the reason for rejecting the charter, he will be dismantling a successful school.

The parents and Silver Hill’s founder wish that instead, the district would put its energy into helping its other schools adopt the strategies that made Silver Hill successful. But no one else is discussing that option.

To read more, go to:


July Newsletter

New Member!

Hello everybody!
My name is Murphy Olmstead and I am the newest addition to Wittmeyer & Associates. I am the step-son to Jane and joined the team as an Associate to gain knowledge in public policy and issues involving charter schools. I am a proud University of Idaho alumni and have spent my last 3 years as a Recruiter for a financial services firm. I am excited to meet all of you and eager to be working with everyone involved in the coalition.
On another note, we are still actively looking for people who would like to join the coalition! Whether they’re a student, parent, teacher or a supporter of educational innovation through Public Charter Schools, there is a place for you within the Coalition of Idaho Charter Schools. We are looking for those right people who want to get on to our board of directors with the coalition as well. Whether it's writing a letter or attending a rally, find out how you can get involved and what you can do to help the cause!
The best way to get involved with the coalition starts with attending our 2018 Parent Advocacy Boot Camp! This is a trip to Washington D.C with parents that supports and defends parents’ rights to access the best public school options for their children. The Boot Camp will teach on ways to advocate and create different public school options, including charter schools, online schools, magnet schools, open enrollment policies and other innovative education programs. If you are interested, please do not hesitate to call or e-mail me! We would love to have you come.
Lastly, we are having a Board meeting for the Coalition that is set for Thursday, August 24th. We would love to have as many people as we can come and attend the meeting. It will be a good way for everyone to get to know more about the group and ways we can stay in touch.
I hope everyone is having a great summer and I look forward to getting to meet you all!



Uncharted Charter

by Keith Cousins, Coeur d’Alene Press

COEUR d’ALENE — Another year, another snub for Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy.

One of the nation’s top-performing high schools, Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy was once again not recognized in the U.S. News and World Report’s rankings of the top high schools in Idaho. The school had previously appeared on the list as one of the top 50 in the country, but has not appeared in the rankings in recent years. That prompted school officials and leaders with the state’s charter school network to hire a lawyer for further investigation.

“It’s very frustrating still. It gets more and more frustrating each year it happens,” said principal Dan Nicklay, whose students consistently lead the state in test scores and routinely go on to some of the best universities and colleges in the country. “The data is sitting there, right for the taking, and they just can’t get it from point A to point B.”

U.S. News and World Report began compiling and publishing high school rankings in 2007 with the goal of providing “a clear, unbiased picture of how well public schools serve all of their students in preparing them to demonstrate proficiency in basic skills as well as readiness for college-level work.” According to its website, the media organization works with a nonprofit social science research firm, RTI International, to create a methodology of ranking based on four factors: basic data from the U.S. Department of Education, Advanced Placement test data, International Baccalaureate test data, and each high school’s statewide test results and graduation rates.

Read More..



Idaho schools received a $30.3 million check from the Idaho Lottery Thursday.

The dividends — $30,312,500, to be exact — represent the schools’ share from 2016-17 ticket sales of about $240 million.

The proceeds still represent but a sliver of Idaho’s school funding. The K-12 system will receive close to $1.7 billion in sales and income tax revenues in 2017-18 — and that doesn’t count the hundreds of millions of dollars schools collect in local property taxes.

But state officials and lottery administrators celebrated the dividends during a ceremony in Gov. Butch Otter’s office Thursday afternoon. Lottery director Jeff Anderson said the state is nearing a milestone; since its inception in 1989, the lottery has awarded nearly $800 million in dividends for schools and state buildings.

“That’s quite a feat,” said Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who stood in for Otter Thursday.


Lt. Gov. Brad Little, state superintendent Sherri Ybarra and state lottery director Jeff Anderson pose with an oversized check representing the K-12 cut from 2016-17 lottery ticket sales.

The lottery money does not go into salaries and benefits, but instead goes to one-time capital projects. About $18 million goes into a fund school districts can tap into for repairs and improvements. The remaining $12 million goes into the state’s Bond Levy Equalization Fund, which is designed to mitigate some of the cost of building bond issues in rural and poorer school districts.

Read More…





Call Murphy Olmstead (208) 871-3885

June Newsletter





The Coalition Board hopes that you are enjoying the summer! It goes by very quickly and we wanted to keep in touch with you about a few things that affect you, your students and your Charter School!

As many of you know, some Idaho Legislative Committees continue to work over the Summer (often called Interium Committees). They work on issues that were not finished during Legislative Session (January through late March) or on new issues that come up—such as new Idaho rules or regulations from Washington, DC.

We want to advise you about an upcoming Committee meeting—Public School Funding Formula Committee. It will meet on June 20, at 9 am in Room East Wing in the Capitol. It is open to the public. 

The Coalition and several virtual schools will attend. We will advise you if the Committee takes adverse actions toward virtual schools. We are particularly concerned about the issue of Idaho’s Accountability Framework. The Coalition members may need to provide information to the Committee members encouraging Legislators to encourage simplicity in Accountability.

Below is a fun and interesting article about American’s knowledge – or lack of knowledge—of our food!!

The surprising number of American adults who think chocolate milk comes from brown cows

By Caitlin Dewey June 15 

 Play Video 1:30

5 surprising things many Americans get wrong

Seven percent of American adults believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows, according to a recent online survey commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy. Here are a few other things Americans get wrong. (Elyse Samuels/the Washington Post)

Seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, according to a nationally representative online survey commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy.

If you do the math, that works out to 16.4 million misinformed, milk-drinking people. The equivalent of the population of Pennsylvania (and then some!) does not know that chocolate milk is milk, cocoa and sugar.

But while the survey has attracted snorts and jeers from some corners — “um, guys, [milk] comes from cows — and not just the brown kind,” snarked Food & Wine — the most surprising thing about this figure may actually be that it isn’t higher.

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For decades, observers in agriculture, nutrition and education have griped that many Americans are basically agriculturally illiterate. They don’t know where food is grown, how it gets to stores — or even, in the case of chocolate milk, what’s in it.

One Department of Agriculture study, commissioned in the early ’90s, found that nearly 1 in 5 adults did not know that hamburgers are made from beef. Many more lacked familiarities with basic farming facts, like how big U.S. farms typically are and what food animals eat.

Experts in ag education aren’t convinced that much has changed in the intervening decades.

“At the end of the day, it’s an exposure issue,” said Cecily Upton, co-founder of the nonprofit FoodCorps, which brings agricultural and nutrition education into elementary schools. “Right now, we’re conditioned to think that if you need food, you go to the store. Nothing in our educational framework teaches kids where food comes from before that point.”

Upton and other educators are quick to caution that these conclusions don’t apply across the board. Studies have shown that people who live in agricultural communities tend to know a bit more about where their food comes from, as do people with higher education levels and household incomes.

But in some populations, confusion about basic food facts can skew pretty high. When one team of researchers interviewed fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at an urban California school, they found that more than half of them didn’t know pickles were cucumbers, or that onions and lettuce were plants. Four in 10 didn’t know that hamburgers came from cows. And 3 in 10 didn’t know that cheese is made from milk.

“All informants recalled the names of common foods in raw form and most knew foods were grown on farms or in gardens,” the researchers concluded. “They did not, however, possess schema necessary to articulate an understanding of post-production activities nor the agricultural crop origin of common foods.”

In some ways, this ignorance is perfectly logical. The writer and historian Ann Vileisis has argued that it developed in lockstep with the industrial food system.

As more Americans moved into cities in the mid-1800s, she writes in the book “Kitchen Literacy,” fewer were involved in food production or processing. That trend was exacerbated by innovations in transportation and manufacturing that made it possible to ship foods in different forms, and over great distances.

By the time uniformity, hygiene and brand loyalty became modern ideals — the latter frequently encouraged by emerging food companies in well-funded ad campaigns — many Americans couldn’t imagine the origins of the boxed cereals or shrink-wrapped hot dogs in their kitchens.

Today, many Americans only experience food as an industrial product that doesn’t look much like the original animal or plant: The USDA says orange juice is the most popular “fruit” in America, and processed potatoes — in the form of french fries and chips — rank among the top vegetables.

“Indifference about the origins and production of foods became a norm of urban culture, laying the groundwork for a modern food sensibility that would spread all across America in the decades that followed,” Vileisis wrote, of the 20th century. “Within a relatively brief period, the average distance from farm to kitchen had grown from a short walk down the garden path to a convoluted, 1,500-mile energy-guzzling journey by rail and truck.”

The past 20 years have seen the birth of a movement to reverse this gap, with agriculture and nutrition groups working to get ag education back into classrooms.

Aside from FoodCorps, which worked with slightly more than 100,000 students this year, groups like the National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization and the American Farm Bureau Foundation are actively working with K-12 teachers across the country to add nutrition, farm technology and agricultural economics to lessons in social studies, science and health. The USDA Farm to School program, which awarded $5 million in grants for the 2017-2018 school year on Monday, also funds projects on agriculture education.

For National Dairy Month, which is June, NACO has been featuring a kindergarten-level lessonon dairy. Among its main takeaways: milk — plain, unflavored, boring white milk — comes from cows, not the grocery case.

Nutritionists and food-system reformers say these basic lessons are critical to raising kids who know how to eat healthfully — an important aid to tackling heart disease and obesity.

Meanwhile, farm groups argue the lack of basic food knowledge can lead to poor policy decisions.

A 2012 white paper from the National Institute for Animal Agriculture blamed consumers for what it considers bad farm regulations: “One factor driving today’s regulatory environment ... is pressure applied by consumers, the authors wrote. “Unfortunately, a majority of today’s consumers are at least three generations removed from agriculture, are not literate about where food comes from and how it is produced.”

Upton, of FoodCorps, said everyone could benefit from a better understanding of agriculture.

“We still get kids who are surprised that a french fry comes from a potato, or that a pickle is a cucumber,” she said. “... Knowledge is power. Without it, we can’t make informed decisions.”

Update: This story originally said the survey in question was commissioned by the National Dairy Council. It was actually commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy, its sister organization. The Post regrets the error. 

The surprising number of American adults who think chocolate milk comes from brown cows - The Washington Post





The Coalition of Idaho Charter School Families is pleased to announce that we had an abundant of parents sign up to attend the Washington DC Boot Camp that is held every July. Three Parents will attend this year’s Camp. We have a waiting list for next year of 7. We appreciate the interest from Idaho’s Charter School parents in learning more about how to maintain support charter schools. 

We all appreciate the need to maintain parent support for Charters.  In Idaho, as in most states, we often have to fight hard against those that do not want Charter Schools—especially virtual schools. Even now, in Idaho, there are individuals and groups that work hard to eliminate charter schools. See below.  The Coalition is here to protect Parent Choice in Schools. 

If you are interested in helping protect your ability to choose your student’s school, I urge you join the Coalition and lend your voice to keep Charters open. I have listed the RENEWAL SCHEDULE FOR PCSC-AUTHORIZED SCHOOLS. If your school is on the renewal list for Renewal you may want to learn more about what you can do. 



Statute requires that the performance certificates for existing schools ensure all schools will be evaluated for renewal or nonrenewal between March 2016 and March 2019.

The PCSC will schedule initial renewal considerations for the existing schools it authorizes based on their 2013 Star ratings. All schools will receive at least two, annual reports from the PCSC prior to the year in which they will be considered for renewal or non-renewal, permitting ample time to correct any shortcomings. In accordance with statute, new schools will receive performance certificates with an initial term of three years, and will be added to this schedule accordingly.


Heritage Academy

Succeed Virtual High School

Kootenai Bridge Academy

Wings Charter Middle School

Idaho Connects Online (ICON)

Another Choice Virtual School

Richard McKenna Charter High School

American Heritage Charter School

Chief Tarhgee Elementary Academy

Odyssey Charter School

Syringa Mountain School

Bingham Academy

The Coalition of Idaho Charter School Families believes that the current “process” should be changed and will work with families and schools to prevent Charters from closing.

  Contact Us

Coalition of Idaho Charter School Families

PO Box 6236 | Boise, ID 83707-6236



Teacher of the Year Commits the Unpardonable Sin: Working at a Charter (Op-Ed)

National Review |  By Paul Crookston, May 25, 2017
A public-school teacher who focuses on social justice won the 2017 teacher of the year award, but public-school teachers’ unions in her home state refuse to acknowledge the honor. Why? Because Boston teacher Sydney Chaffee teaches at a public charter school — and that fact is enough to designate her as an enemy of the Massachusetts Teachers Union (MTA). In the past, the MTA has rolled out the red carpet at their convention for the winners of teacher-of-the-year awards. This year, they have the state’s first ever national teacher of the year, and in lieu of inviting her to speak and offering a stipend, the MTA refused to even approve a congratulatory letter. 

Additional Sources:

  • Mass. teachers union snubs National Teacher of the Year(MA) Commonwealth Magazine |  By Michael Jonas, May 25, 2017
  • They Voted to Snub Her. We Celebrate Her, Good School Hunting |  By Erika Sanzi, May 25, 2017