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.
One of the strong trends in public schools these days is the increasingly frequent transferring of students to a different school during the school year. Under Idaho’s time-worn public school funding policies, 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.
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. This way the school that the student transferred out of keeps 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 Governor Otter vetoed it. Like us, he 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 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, Govern Otter proposed to have an education task force look at the issue and proposed to bring a supplemental appropriation bill to this year’s legislature. We are encouraged by the governor’s involvement and leadership on this. He knows 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 the governor’s proposals to resolve this issue. We hope that with his leadership in 2016, 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