Good morning. My name is Teresa Molitor and I am a registered lobbyist for the
Association of Charter School Leaders. I am also a former Board member of
Heritage Academy in Jerome.
A few days ago, you all were found guilty of violating the state’s Open Meeting
Law. Anyone who has listened to the recording – and I think we all have – would
agree that your conversation was inappropriate for Executive Session.
But what about the conversations you have had in public, in regular meetings?
Those have been almost as inappropriate and offensive. I can remember back in
2013, when I and others from the Heritage Board were called before this
Commission for questioning. I had heard that these commission meetings had
become emotionally devastating -- that people would leave them crying -- but
until I witnessed it firsthand I didn’t know what had been going on in the nine
years since our lobbying efforts created this Commission back in 2004.
The shift that had taken place was saddening and disturbing. The other board
members and I were treated like criminals. We were interrogated about broken
playground equipment, alleged bullying, and, of course, test scores.
No matter what answer we provided, commissioners and staff acted as though
we had done the most egregious thing, opening this charter school in Jerome. It
was like we were embarrassing to the Commissioners and Commission staff.
Because Heritage wasn’t wildly outperforming the traditional public school in
Jerome, we were targeted. And Heritage has been on your hit list ever since.
The recording of your Executive Session, frankly, seemed almost like an extension
of the conversation you have boldly had in public for many years. Those public
meetings, even as recently as the last one you conducted in June, show a real
disdain and disregard for those who are passionate about providing education
And what about that word, choice? When we lobbied for charter schools in 2004,
we talked about choice, choice, and choice. Never, ever, was a promise made that
charter schools would outperform traditional schools. The mantra was: “Charter
schools will do as well or better than traditional public schools, and they will do it
with less money and more innovation.”
Let me repeat that: “Charter schools will do as well or better than traditional
public schools, and they will do it with less money and more innovation.”
You see, this recording is not just a violation of the Open Meeting Law. It’s a
violation of your original mission, to support Idaho charter schools, especially
those that are struggling. Not excluding those that are struggling, but especially
those that are struggling.
Charter schools wanted more freedom and flexibility to innovate, and were
willing to trade away some funding to get it. But guess what? Charter schools are
still giving away the money, but they are getting the opposite: They are saddled
with more reporting, more accountability, more busywork.
The Association of Charter School Leaders was formed to help policymakers
remember what the original mission was. It wasn’t for more money to duplicate
high-performing schools. It was for more freedom and flexibility. It was for choice.
That’s why Idaho agreed to do charter schools. It was, simply, to provide choice.
Your job, as commissioners, was to support schools that were providing choice,
whether they were virtual, brick and mortar, or something else.
The recording I heard really wasn’t that surprising. I have heard the same disdain
and condescension from you and your staff for many years.
This meeting today may “cure” your open meeting violation, but it won’t cure the
severe problems I just described. It won’t cure the fact that you are completely
misguided in what your mission is. That you think this will all blow over if you just
offer enough apologies.