Charters receive first facilities payments

Idaho charter schools have received their first round of payments to offset facilities costs.

The largest lump sum went to an online charter: the Idaho Virtual Academy.

And a small lump sum went to Wings Charter Middle School in Twin Falls, which closed its doors last month.

Coeur d'Alene Academy 2

The Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy received $86,678.01 to offset its facilities costs, as part of $2 million in state payments set last week.

Last week, the State Department of Education divvied up just over $2 million for Idaho’s 47 charter schools — the first-of-its kind payments under a charter facilities law passed by the 2013 Legislature.

That’s a higher price tag than originally forecast, when the charter facilities bill passed after extensive debate, and over the objections of Democrats and some Republicans. The fiscal note attached to the law pegged first-year costs at about $1.4 million.

Instead, the bottom line for 2013-14 came to $2,025,054.72.

That number — the sum charter schools receive for facilities — is tied to the amount of money traditional public schools receive for facilities. In 2013-14, public schools received $164.3 million from voter-approved bond issues and plant facilities levies, or $609.54 per student. The charter facilities law guaranteed charter schools 2013-14 payments of $121.91 per student, or 20 percent of what public schools receive for facilities. This rate will increase to 30 percent in 2014-15.

For most charter schools — schools with a traditional brick-and-mortar presence — the formula is fairly straightforward, and based solely on enrollment. For example. Eagle’s North Star Charter School is in line to receive $119,593.71, based on its enrollment of 981. (Click here for background on the cash-strapped school’s plan to renegotiate its building debt.)

But as with many things related to school funding, the details get complicated quickly.

Idaho Virtual Academy received $132,330, a sum based on the online school’s facilities needs. The online charter schools can get a partial reimbursement for the facilities they do maintain, such as administrative offices or testing facilities, Education Department spokeswoman Camille Wells said Monday. Even though the school’s 3,000 students take classes remotely at home, IDVA is eligible to receive state payments to help cover building leases for its facilities in Meridian and Arco.

Meanwhile, Wings received an $8,899.43 payment, weeks after the alternative middle school closed, citing high facilities costs and shrinking enrollment. Wings was still eligible for a payment, since it represents a reimbursement for 2013-14 expenses, Wells said.

The payments will help charter schools offset facilities costs, said Terry Ryan, president of the Idaho Charter School Network, but traditional and charter schools are still pinched by a lean state budget. “It’s still asking schools to operate on lean margins.”

For charter schools, the problems can be acute. Struggling schools such as Wings may be done in by high facilities costs, low enrollment and meager per-pupil support. Charter schools with a long waiting list — schools that have “created a model that works,” said Ryan — may still be uneasy about incurring the risk of expanding facilities.

Facilities checks were sent out to 41 charter schools last week. Payments to the state’s other six charter schools are pending, Wells said, since these schools still need to submit paperwork with the state.

For a rundown of last week’s payments, click on this link.


  • Adam Collins

    Wasn’t the idea that sold the Republican legislature on the benefits of charter schools based on their being less expensive than the traditional public schools? If charter schools are so great, why should the state kick in more money to assist their efforts? Charter schools seek to be a private school with public funds, and the more public funds that are diverted to charter schools means less money for the traditional public schools. Charter schools save immense costs on turning away special education students and special needs students, while simultaneously shipping their students to traditional public schools for extracurricular programs (athletics, music, etc). Odd that these charter schools, with their significant financial advantages and discriminatory practices now are crying for more money. Considering that charter schools perform no better than traditional public schools, fail at a much higher rate than traditional public schools, do not have near the academic or extracurricular offerings of traditional public schools, and are becoming as costly as traditional public schools, remind me again of the benefit of charter schools?

  • Kevin S. Wilson

    “Idaho Virtual Academy
    received $132,330, a sum based on the online school’s facilities needs.
    The online charter schools can get a partial reimbursement for the
    facilities they do maintain, such as administrative offices or testing
    facilities, Education Department spokeswoman Camille Wells said Monday.”

    Tax dollars for administrative offices. Pretty good deal for K12, Inc., the for-profit corporation that operates Idaho Virtual Academy, Idaho’s largest virtual charter school. K12, Inc.also receives a transportation allowance from the state, despite the fact that it buses no students from home to school. K12, Inc. has received this allowance for well over a decade.

    That would be the same K12, Inc. that spent about $21.5 million of taxpayer dollars to advertise its schools in just the first eight months of 2012. The same K12, Inc. that Joe Scott, chairman of the board at the Albertson Foundation, invested heavily in during its start-up days, reaping millions from that investment in subsequent years. The same K12, Inc. that was the largest single donor to Tom Luna’s campaign for reelection in 2012, contributing 18% of the total amount raised by his campaign.

    “Online Schools Spend Millions to Attract Students”

    “Albertson’s Heir Made Millions on K12, Inc., Promotes it to Idaho Schools”

  • Ryan McGill

    What regulations are in place to keep this money directed at the students of charter schools? I know Idaho legislators are resistant to anything regulatory, but how will the tax payer be able to track how the money is being spent within the charter schools of Idaho.

    It would be best for Idaho to eliminate the duplicitous service of charter schools. They have created additional bureaucracy and are not performing at a higher level than public schools.

    We should get ahead of the impending issues of corruption and unethical behaviors that the ‘school choice’ movement brings.


    Ryan McGill