NEW AUDIO: A tale of two personalities. One public. One private.

What they say in public and what they say in private are completely different. Listen to the commissioners chastise a parent/administrator for expressing a fear the commission would adopt the recommendations from out of state consultants (NACSA) and shut charter schools down— only to be told by commissioners not to “preach” an “unsubstantiated fear”. Contrast this with the leaked audio from the meeting Governor Little says was “probably illegal” where they were caught on tape plotting to skirt the law to close charter and virtual schools.

Isn’t it sad to have a charter commission and staff we can’t trust to oversee charter and virtual schools? Call your lawmakers, call your Governor. Tell them enough is enough. We need a new authorizer so these kids can continue to learn in an environment chosen by their parents. We trust parents.

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, Commissioner: Just a clarification, we can’t close a school anyway. It’s not how it works. 


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. 


Commissioner: “Our point is it’s unsubstantiated. And incorrect.” 


Joel: I’m here to support BCCLC and thank the staff.


Commissioner: 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


(Laughter)



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

Audio and Transcript Here: Idchartercoalition.org/transcript


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


ID Board of Ed: Charter Commission Comments were Hurtful

Debbie Critchfield, president of the Idaho state Board of Education, has sent out a guest opinion about the recent controversy over comments made in a closed-door executive session of the Public Charter School Commission. Here is her full article posted by Betsy Russell, Idaho Press

By Debbie Critchfield

State of Idaho

"Many have weighed in regarding the oversight and function of the Idaho Public Charter School Commission (PCSC) in light of recent news pertaining to the Commission’s discussions in executive session that were recorded and released. Executive sessions are authorized under the Idaho open meeting law to provide for non-public discussion of a limited number of subjects such as student education records with personally identifiable information in order to protect student privacy. Executive sessions are not held in public and are not typically recorded. No action or final decision may be made in executive session."

"The particular executive session held last spring was unknowingly recorded and mistakenly released in response to a public record request under Idaho’s public record law. Unfortunately, there were comments made during these discussions that were demeaning to individual charter schools and the communities they serve. The Idaho State Board of Education is fully aware of the situation. As a matter of governance, the State Board oversees the Commission’s work. Commission positions are appointed by either the Governor, Speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives, or the President Pro Tem of the Idaho Senate. The PCSC staff report to the Board’s executive director."

"The mission of the Public Charter School Commission is to ensure that “authorized public charter schools comply with Idaho statute, protecting student and public interests by balancing high standards of accountability with respect for autonomy of public charter schools and implementing best authorizing practices to ensure excellence of public charter school options available to Idaho families.” The PCSC authorizes 73 percent of charter schools in Idaho. Others are authorized by school district boards of trustees."

"As Board President, I will not make excuses for comments that disparage individuals, schools or communities. Critical discussions do need to take place in executive session in order to protect student privacy as required by state and federal law. The Idaho Attorney General’s Office is investigating complaints made regarding the Commission’s executive session. Regardless of whether there was a violation of the open meeting law, discussions must be respectful and constructive in order for all of us to work toward our common goal of improving public education in Idaho."

"My hope is that this incident will not diminish or overshadow the critical work of the Commission. As the authorizer of nearly three-quarters of all public charter schools, the Commission’s role is vitally important not only for charter school students and families, but for Idaho taxpayers as well. When schools are underperforming, the Commission must work with the schools to correct problems."

"Moving forward, the Commission members and staff will receive training about Idaho’s open meeting law and how to have appropriate discussions about school performance, student data and education quality. I also hope to have conversations with parents within the charter school community to help rebuild trust."

"The Public Charter School Commission plays an important role to ensure a quality education for the students under its charge. This role is carried out through the authorization of charter schools – a process defined in state law. The Commission does not exist to advocate for charter schools, nor to denigrate them. I sincerely hope that this episode will not diminish that role or cause people to lose faith in public charter schools or use it as a reason to attack the whole system. It is also my hope that we use this an opportunity to improve our communication, whether in public or behind closed doors."

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

Parents: Help protect our access to charter and virtual schools!

The State Charter Commissioners and Staff want to decrease our access to Charter and Virtual schools. 

You’ve seen the news (if not, click here). The Idaho State Commission that oversees 2/3 of Charter Schools was caught on tape plotting to skirt the law and decrease our access to charters- all of this while locking out the public in a secret meeting the Governor says was "probably illegal". We can’t let this happen. So, we need your help. 

There are 3 EASY actions you can take RIGHT NOW to help us, help all of you: CALL. WRITE. SHOW UP.

CALL
Will you spend 2 minutes on your cell phone? As a parent and supporter of school choice, we need you to call the Governor and tell him to protect your access to Charter and Virtual schools! He's right the meeting was illegal, but it's the CONTENT of the meeting that's disturbing. The schools are afraid to speak up, so it's up to us to stand up for students, teachers, administrators, and school boards. Here’s the Governor's phone number: 208-334-2100

WRITE
Will you write a letter to lawmakers and send a copy to the local newspaper and tell them why you chose a charter school or virtual school for your loved one? We need you to do this today! Click Here to send an email or Click here for your lawmakers mailing address. Send a copy to idahopso@gmail.com so we can use it as an example of support!

SHOW UP
Can you come to a Town Hall meeting next week in Twin Falls to tell the top leaders of the legislature that it’s parents who decide the best education fit for their child? It’s a town hall and they will listen when you speak. RSVP on Facebook details HERE or RSVP via email here: IdahoPSO@gmail.com (July 24, 6 PM) 
Will you come to the first State Charter Commission meeting since the scandal broke and show your support for school choice? It’s in August. We need you there. Details Here.  RSVP on Facebook here.

Full illegal meeting audio and transcript on our website.

Gov. Little and State Board of Ed Comment on Charter School Scandal; Charter School Families Coalition Responds

Tom LeClaire, Coalition of Idaho Charter School Families Response to Gov. Little's Comments on Illegal Meeting

“I believe Governor Little knows it's both a matter of legality, but also trust. How can Idaho's charter schools -- the boards, educators, and parents -- trust that the Commission and its staff will be honest and impartial? Trust can only be restored if those who said these hurtful, biased and wrong statements during this illegal executive session resign and are replaced by new public officials who are committed to supporting our charter schools and families. I believe Governor Little is a good man and will do the right thing.”

-Tom LeClaire, President, Coalition of Idaho Charter School Families.

FULL AUDIO AND TRANSCRIPT of ILLEGAL MEETING HERE

ARTICLE: Little: Charter Commission's Closed- Door Meeting was Probably Illegal