Charter commission to weigh financial stability of seven schools

The leadership at seven charter schools must prove to state officials next month that their financial setbacks will be corrected.

The Idaho Public Charter Commission will consider at its Feb. 23-24 meeting renewing five-year contracts for seven charters that are at some level struggling financially. The decisions to either keep the schools open or close them affects 4,000 students in Boise, Kuna and Garden City.

The seven-member commission is responsible for ensuring that the 71 public charter schools it supervises are compliant with financial rules and requirements — as well as reaching academic standards and benchmarks.

Appointed by state leaders, commission members rely on recommendations from Jenn Thompson, Idaho’s charter commission director. Thompson has recommended renewing the contracts of all seven schools with “conditions” — which means the schools have to fix their problems by specified deadlines. To read more about the renewal contracts, click here.

The infractions at the schools range from owing federal taxes to missing building lease payments.

Idaho Virtual Academy (IDVA) has not been required to fully report its finances and the state wants to reverse this exemption that’s been in place since the school opened. Public details are slim because of legal rules, but the state wants to make public the school’s full accounting practices. The online, alternative school has 1,800 students. 

But school leaders disagree with Thompson, and they requested an administrative hearing with the commission to challenge the proposal. If left unchanged, the exemption allows IDVA to avoid providing the commission with accounts that helps it monitor the charter’s financial health.

Thompson was unable to comment because of the upcoming hearing.

Inspire Connections Academy — also an online alternative school — agreed to give up a similar financial exemption, according to a state document, so its finances would become public if the commission approves the new agreement. Inspire Connections serves 828 students.

Monticello Montessori Charter School is behind on payments to the IRS. To remain in good standing with the state, Thompson recommends that by July 1 it must prove that either back taxes are paid or the IRS agreed to a payment plan. The school also was below expectations on eight of nine financial measures, and if it is to remain open, the school, which serves 181 students, must be on track for three consecutive years.

Project Impact STEM Academy in Kuna did not pay its building lease on Hubbard Road. Now, the state is asking for proof in the new contract that it resolved that payment problem. After leasing the building on Hubbard Road for four years, the school tried to purchase the location but that negotiation failed, so the school moved to a new location last summer and stopped making payments, according to documents obtained from the school’s website. The school serves 297 students.

In Boise, Peace Valley Charter School’s reports show that its debt is straining the school’s overall financial situation. The school, which serves 320 students, needs to show in the next two years that its ability to repay loans is improving.

Two other charters are recommended for conditional approval with corrective action: Rolling Hills Public Charter School must fix three financial measures; and the Village Charter School needs to prove that it’s meeting the terms of its facility loan.

Look for an EdNews story later this month about the commission’s upcoming meeting.

Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

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