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Charter law promises innovation and school choice

Gov. Brad Little signed the new charter school act into law Tuesday at North Star Charter in Eagle. | Darren Svan,
BOISE ( — Idaho’s new charter school law is positioned to encourage the growth of school choice options and educational innovation by overhauling decades-old regulations.
Gov. Brad Little signed the Accelerated Public Charter School Act into law this week to an enthusiastic group of 100 education leaders, students and state officials who attended his ceremony at North Star Charter School in Eagle.
“Idaho is a leader in educational freedom, in large part because of our support for charter schools,” Little said Tuesday. 
Israel and Nohely Gonzalez made the two-hour drive from Jerome. They have three children attending Heritage Academy.
“We just want to be involved with what our kids are being taught, who’s teaching them and making sure they have the best education possible,” said Nohely Gonzalez.
The charter act received mostly praise and support from stakeholders and lawmakers as it made its way through the legislative process.
“It speaks to how much the state of Idaho values the charter schools that we have,” Little said.
The new law attempts to strike a balance between autonomy and accountability by reducing regulatory burdens for high-performing schools and providing more support for low-performing schools.
One measure allows charters with a history of successful performance to get a 12-year renewal.
“It reduces the administrative burden on our principals, because the renewal process takes time away from supporting teachers and students. Time is a leader’s most precious commodity. The lengthened renewal timeframe also reduces the risk to facility lenders during refinancing, driving down interest rates and keeping more dollars in our classrooms,” said Jason Bransford, chief executive officer of Gem Prep Schools.
The new law paves the way for innovative approaches in education, part of the driving force behind starting charter schools in Idaho 25 years ago. Idaho’s largest authorizer, the Idaho Public Charter School Commission can authorize a special three-year charter term to a pilot school that proposes an innovative educational model.
School leaders have the opportunity to rethink aspects of the educational process “in a way that has a transformational impact on its students,” Bransford said.
The career technical education community has an innovative, untested concept. The suggestion is to have CTE courses embed core subject requirements — language arts, math, science — into their curriculum so nursing students, for example, meet their high school science requirements through the real-world experience of becoming a nursing assistant or pharmacy technician or phlebotomist.
If a new education concept is seen as a viable idea, the public charter commission has the authority to approve it.
“This act encourages the advancement of innovative approaches through the creation of charter school options which provides parents and students additional choices to meet their educational needs,” said Jacob smith, the public charter commission’s director.
Smith said his organization will now have an “opportunity to create meaningful accountability practices” for the schools it authorizes.
Speaking at Tuesday’s ceremony, Marrisa Ange, North Star student body president, praised her school for the choices it’s provided to her and classmates. 
“I really have been able to just make those close connections that have enhanced my education here and made me want to come to school every day and be a bigger part of the school community,” Ange said.
Here are additional initiatives included in the act:

Allow charter schools to operate daycare and after-school programs as long as they don’t use state funds.
Allow charter schools to receive funding from private organizations.
Allow charter holders with multiple schools to enroll as a single local education agency.

Idaho has 74 charter schools serving 30,000 students. They educate just under 10% of all school-age students. For more details on the new law, click here.

This article was originally posted on on Feb. 28, 2024.
The post Charter law promises innovation and school choice appeared first on East Idaho News.

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