Boise, Id. Coalition of Idaho Charter School Families President, Tom LeClaire today released his reaction to the new audio file from the June 2019 public meeting of the Idaho Public Charter School Commission. At the June meeting, members of the public were shocked to witness the poor treatment by Commissioners of a charter school parent who is also the director of an Idaho charter school. After hearing his testimony, the commissioners strongly pushed back and accused the testimony of spreading “unsubstantiated fears”. The previously released recording from the Commissioners’ April illegal executive session confirm the Commissioners’ June public comments were blatant and utter lies.
The illegal executive session of the April 2019 meeting pulled back the curtain unveiling a plan promoted by staff and accepted by commissioners to skirt the law, and manipulate law-makers to close schools. This was the exact concern raised at the June meeting by the parent. In return, he was accused of spreading “unsubstantiated claims” and Commissioner Van Orden stated “It’s important for the public to be clear and direct and understand the reality of the situation. We can’t close schools and we need to be clear so we don’t perpetuate these inaccuracies.”
“Once again, I am saddened to hear the outright lies and blatant hypocrisy of the Idaho Public Charter School Commissioners. Especially, in light of the recently reported illegal session of the PCSC, where commissioners made awful, derogatory comments about students, teachers, law makers, cities, homeschoolers, and online schools within the discussion of the closure of several schools under their tutelage. The real issue here is the Commission’s closed-door manipulation and explicit plans to skirt the law to close schools, all while maintaining a completely different message publicly.”
President LeClaire emphasized that no charter school in Idaho will ever trust the current commissioners and commission staff members as we see, again and again, that schools do not get a fair shake from this staff or commission.
Today, I ask parents and families of the thousands of Idaho Charter School students to immediately call and write to their elected leaders and demand the immediate resignation of the commissioners and staff members of the Idaho PCSC and the immediate setup of a new third party authorizer for the schools currently under the authority of the PCSC. I am asking for your help to contact our leaders including local legislators, Governor Brad Little, House Speaker Scott Bedke, Senate Pro Tempore Brent Hill, and the members of the Idaho State Board of Education. Tell them how important school choice is and that parents are the ones who know best when it comes to the best fit for their child’s education. We must protect our access to all public school options.
Transcript Of June Public PCSC Meeting
The following transcript is best understood while listening to the accompanying audio recording as some text is summarized and not a direct transcription of the testimony.
1:35 Joel Weaver, Director Chief Tahgee Elementary Academy, testifies regarding discussion at the April meeting and concern for NACSA recommendations which said test scores at 50% or less must close. Charter schools exist to give parents choices. BCCLC was top ISAT school 5 years ago until financial issues. But, they will grow. If you take that school away from those kids they will not go back to the public school. You will bury some of them in their house, in their basement. Some will get eaten alive at BF high school. You still haven’t made it equal for charters to compete. We still don’t have the money— we all struggle to get money for buildings for the school, we can’t bond, etc. Blackfoot school district passed a bond to fill in the gap left by charters, but charters can’t bond. My hope is that we really try to build quality schools. I know Bingham Academy struggles, but they provide schooling for kids that will not go back to traditional public schools. The kids won’t go to traditional public schools. This is about the kids, these are my neighbors, these are our kids. So, it offended me that the national evaluator (NACSA) came in and said shut those schools down.
Peterson: Thank you for coming and your passion. You identified you valued the performance certificate, but you also said there’s something that isn’t captured that is important.
Joel: Site visits are the best way to measure………… Please don’t take Bingham Academy away from those kids. The public school there is a tough place to be. Bullying.
Commissioner: You seem to be expressing a fear that 50% is a benchmark for test scores that will close schools.
1:45 Joel: It’s a failed notion to think all charters can get there and we shouldn’t base it only on that.
Reed, Female Commissioner: Just a clarification, we can’t close a school anyway. It’s not how it works.
Female Commissioner: “When people react to an unsubstantiated fear that we are gonna close schools. It’s bad for our relationships.”
Reed: “We just need the preaching correct, and what you’re saying is incorrect.”
Joel: But that’s what we fear.
Female Commissioner : “Our point is it’s unsubstantiated. And incorrect.”
Joel: I’m here to support BCCLC and thank the staff.
Female: It’s important for the public to be clear and direct and understand the reality of the situation. We can’t close schools and we need to be clear so we don’t perpetuate these inaccuracies.
*Moves to next agenda item* New schools, status update:
Reed: "How many schools are we going to close?" (laughter)
Baysinger: All of them
Contrast public comments above with comments made behind closed doors in April (below)
Illegal Executive Session in April 2019 behind closed doors with the public and schools locked out
Tamara: "And that's the political pressure that came up during the NACSA presentation. Right? At some point we just have to say, and I've been working on this actively with our legislators and with the Governor's office to say, come to us and ask what the story is. The Commission is not being arbitrary here. We're taking these actions for a reason, and the Governor's office is listening in a way that they never have before, so that's going well. But, stay tuned. We'll see what happens when things really get difficult. And I told Greg, the Governor's Education Advisor, it's coming. Of course, I couldn't show him this data, but what I showed him was the percentage of our schools that are in, you know, critical and remediation in academics. It's half! Half of our schools are not meeting the standard. Well, that's a problem. So he knows. He's warned."
56:00 – A comment is made by the Commission executive director Tamara Baysinger that the commission should look at factors other than the legal ones when considering a school’s charter renewal.
Overall, the commissioners seem to agree that the best course of action would be close Heritage Academy in Jerome.
McCall Charter School –
1:12:50 – Critical that Lori Otter, then first lady, wrote a letter of support for the school.
Discussion of financial issues related to school
1:14:10 – Comment made which is critical of homeschoolers in Idaho
1:15:30 – Discussion of planning regarding closing schools (Participants include Baysinger and Bair)
1:21:50 – Discussion of enrollment sizes of schools (Scigliano and Baysigner)
1:22:30 – Critical discussion and comments regarding Idaho Career and Technical Education agency
1:25:00 – Discussion of online versus onsite enrollment at schools
1:30:30 – Discussion regarding closing online virtual high schools
1:35:10 – Discussion regarding the preparation and groundwork for closing charter schools, described by one participant in the meeting as “next steps.”
1:43:00 – Comments made that legislators lack of basic understanding of educational data
1:44:28 – Criticism of State Board of Education not getting commission the data need
1:45:30 – Fear expressed regarding how parents, governor’s office, and legislature will react to closings
1:47:50 – It seems a staff member (Jenn Thompson) suggested to the commission that they were outside the scope of executive session. At this point the executive session ended. Although, President Alan Reed expressed a desire to continue the discussion