Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

The state of Idaho’s public charter schools is good

The best part of my job in Idaho education is the people I get to work with across our great state. And, the hardest part of my job is the people I get to work with! (Such is the duality of life, and the second side of the story can be told another day).

Many of the conversations I have at my job at Bluum as a charter school supporter revolve around numbers. Important numbers like:

  • enrollment growth
  • ISAT scores
  • interest rates on facility financing
  • percentage of students proficient on the IRI
  • per pupil funding
  • percent of students in free
  • and reduced-price lunch.

When looking at these numbers for Idaho public charter schools they tell a positive story. The numbers tell us the state of Idaho’s public charter schools is solid.

But, more exciting to me – and why I keep doing what I do – are the stories and successes of partner schools, their students, their educators and their leaders. Just in recent weeks three of the education leaders I get to work with regularly and call friends have received significant awards for the stellar work they do for their schools, their students, and their communities.

Jason Bransford, the leader of Idaho’s GEM Prep Network of public charter schools, was awarded $200,000 for his efforts on learning societies as a semi-finalist for the Yass Prize. The Yass Prize is a national showcase held in New York City that highlights efforts across the country to “revolutionize education through dynamic discussions and transformative innovations.” Gem Prep’s learning societies, as reported in the highly respected Education Next are a “small experiment in rural Idaho that hold big promise for students success.”

Stephen Lambert, the leader of American Classical Schools of Idaho and founder of the Treasure Valley Classical Academy in Fruitland, will be the recipient of the annual Leadership Award at the Ada County Lincoln Dinner. As part of this award, Lambert will earn up to $50,000 in support for his work to grow American Classical Schools across the Gem State. Lambert was recently quoted in the Wall Street Journal for a story “Inside the Schools Where Boys Can Be Boys.” As a school founder and father of four sons, all of whom serve in the U.S. military, the Journal was wise to reach out to Lambert as a national expert on education and what works for our sons.

Michelle Ball, the leader of the Alturas International Academy and the Alturas Preparatory Academy in Idaho Falls, was just recognized by the Mayor of Idaho Falls for her contribution to education in her community. According to reporting in the East Idaho News, “Michelle Ball received the community education award for her efforts at the Alturas family of charter schools. With an unwavering commitment to furthering education for our city’s future leaders, Ball’s initial start as a small homeschool group has now led to the education of thousands in Idaho Falls.”

The Idaho Legislature is taking up several charter school bills this legislative session, including a significant rewrite of our state charter school law. When asked by the Governor’s office for input on their proposals my only real input was “please don’t do anything that intentionally or unintentionally hurts the great work our public charter schools are doing.” As an education policy veteran who fights becoming a cynic, I worry about such things.

But, to my delight I was impressed by the draft of the charter school rewrite bill. Not only does it not hurt our schools it actually does some good things to strengthen our charter school law. For example, it provides additional flexibilities for schools, it rewards successful charter schools by allowing them to earn contracts of up to 12-years, and it reduces and tightens the language in code that should help streamline the efforts of both the Idaho Public Charter School Commission and individual public charter schools.

In fact, the reduction in code that the charter school bill drafted by Alex Adams in the Governor’s office offers should serve as a burden reduction template for Idaho’s voluminous school funding code. Bills that reduce rules, regulations and burdens on our educators will help Idaho encourage and enable great public school educators like Bransford, Lambert and Ball.

Idaho will never win the race to pay our best more compared to the rest of the country, but we should absolutely give our best maximum freedom and flexibility for how they design and run schools. Money matters, but freedom inspires.

Terry Ryan

Terry Ryan

Terry Ryan is CEO of the Boise-based education nonprofit Bluum and Board Chair of the Idaho Charter School Network.

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday