Nonprofit says it brought nearly 2,000 new charter school seats to Idaho in 2021

Charter support group Bluum says it helped create 1,978 new charter school seats across Idaho last year.

The Boise-based nonprofit shared the number — along with over $9 million in charter support grants it allocated in 2021 — in an annual report released over the holidays.

The new seats stemmed from startup efforts at four new charters:

  • Gem Prep Meridian North, a college prep school that emphasizes blended learning.
  • Rise Charter School, which has partnered with the Magic Valley’s growing Kimberly School District to serve fourth- through eighth-graders.
  • Cardinal Academy, a Treasure Valley school offering personalized programs to expectant and parenting high schoolers, “even dads,” the report reads.
  • Alturas Preparatory Academy, an Idaho Falls charter focused on small-group instruction in multi-age classrooms serving sixth- through 12th-graders.

Bluum CFO Marc Carignan told Idaho Education News Wednesday that around 800 of last year’s new seats stemmed from expansion efforts at three other existing charters: Doral Academy, Pinecrest Academy and Connor Academy.

Last year’s growth and investments rounded out Bluum’s seventh year of charter expansion efforts in Idaho. Since 2015, the non-profit has overseen disbursements of over $59.6 million charter support grants resulting in 13,966 school seats across Idaho, according to the report. To date, Bluum has helped start, expand or replicate over 30 Idaho charter schools.

Those investments include over $30.7 million from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation and over $17.5 million from Communities of Excellence federal charter school programs, or CSP, grants. The report outlined “other philanthropic investments” of over $6 million and fellowship support for charter school leaders totaling over $2.6 million.

Here’s a look at Bluum’s partner schools from across the state.

Investment totals for 2021 included:

  • Over $4.1 million from the Albertson Foundation.
  • Over $4.1 million in CSP grants.
  • $700,000 in philanthropic investments.
  • $250,000 in fellowship support.

Bluum CEO Terry Ryan praised last year’s growth.

“Despite the ongoing challenges, pain and uncertainties raised by the persistent COVID-19 pandemic, Bluum expanded its new school work and partnerships in 2021,” he said.

No other new charters opened up seats in 2021, according to the State Department of Education. Charters have tallied big enrollment gains over recent years. The 30,400 kids in charters last school year accounted for 10 percent of the state’s K-12 student population, the SDE said.

Further reading: Idaho Education News’ 2021 series “More choices, more challenges” outlines the issues behind Idaho’s fast-growing charter sector, from their growth and appeal to their funding and performance. Revisit the series here

Disclosure: Idaho Education News and Bluum are funded by grants from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. 

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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