January 21, 2016
The Honorable C.L. “Butch” Otter
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 83720
Boise, ID 83720
Dear Governor Otter,
I am the new president of the board of directors of the Coalition of Idaho Charter School Families (CICSF). We are a coalition of parents who support the expansion of school choice in Idaho, fair funding of charter schools, and funding that "follows the student" to the school of their choice.
Your previous strong support of charter schools and your focus on education funding reform in cooperation with Superintendants Tom Luna and Sherri Ybarra has been greatly appreciated by our organization.
As you know, if a student transfers from one school to another during the school year, the school receiving the student gets less than 25% of the funding allocated by the state for that student. This funding hole is proving to be devastating for charter schools and for the often at-risk students whose parents are doing all they can to meet their child’s academic needs.
CICSF has worked with other school choice advocates and the Idaho Department of Education for years to address this issue, to no avail. Our preferred answer is to simply have a prorated enrollment allocation for every student follow that student if the student transfers to a different school during the school year. However, we found that the traditional school districts would not give up the allocated money from the state even they were no longer teaching that transfer student.
So, last year, our group supported S126, a bill that would authorize new funding of up to $2 million for schools that receive transfer students. Under the bill, the school that the student transferred out of kept the money they planned on having and the school receiving the transfer student would have money to support that student. The bill passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but you vetoed it. Like us, you did not like the idea of spending new money to solve this. But remember, the legislature increased public school funding by $140 million last year over the previous year. Another $2 million to solve this persistent funding anomaly did not seem unreasonable to us.
Our frustration continues this year as parents try to move a struggling student to a new school and then have to be told that funding for their student has to wait until the next school year. The schools that compete really well and attract many transfer students each year are continuing to be penalized for their success.
On April 2, 2015, you proposed to have an education task force look at the issue and you proposed to bring a supplemental appropriation bill to this year’s legislature. Thank you for providing a timeline to address this issue. We are encouraged by your involvement and leadership. You have recognized that for many transfer students, the clock is ticking. They do not have several years to wait for policy leaders to provide fair funding for the school they chose to attend.
We eagerly await your proposals on this issue. Has the education task force made recommendations? Are you ready to propose a supplemental appropriation? Will the recommendations be transparent and available for review by the public soon?
Thanks again for working on this issue and involving good experts to help us. We hope that with your leadership this year, Idaho will give all schools the resources they need to provide a quality education to all transfer students.
Tom LeClaire, President
Coalition of Idaho Charter School Families