The financial failure of the North Star Charter School in Eagle–and at least six other charters– has raised questions for which the GUARDIAN is finding it difficult to get answers.
While these schools seem to be following the Idaho Code, there are some legitimate legal questions regarding the Idaho Constitution.
These step children of traditional school districts are PUBLIC SCHOOLS and so referenced throughout the Idaho Code. They are created by “Authorizing Agencies”–usually existing school districts which lose the per capita student funding which goes to the charter once it is “authorized.”
The charters are allowed to borrow money, but pay exorbitant rates. Traditional school bonds go for under 5%, but the North Star District pays 9.4%–nearly twice the going interest rate.
Here are some excerpts from Idaho’s Constitution and laws which cause us to ponder the legal financial status of these districts.
“….(2) A public charter school may sue or be sued, purchase, receive, hold and convey real and personal property for school purposes, and borrow money for such purposes, to the same extent and on the same conditions as a traditional public school district.”
From our view it would seem they have to follow the same conditions as a public district. They need a vote of 2/3 of qualified electors to borrow money according to Article VIII, sec.3 of the constitution…but they don’t have any voters.
While the law also says they are “PUBLIC Charter Schools,” they operate as “non-profit corporations.”
Article VIII, sec. 4 of the constitution says public money cannot go to private outfits.
“No county, city, town, township, board of education, or school district, or other subdivision, shall lend, or pledge the credit or faith thereof directly or indirectly, in any manner, to, or in aid of any individual, association or corporation, for any amount or for any purpose whatever, or become responsible for any debt, contract or liability of any individual, association or corporation in or out of this state.”
To further cloud matters, the authorizing agency (Meridian Schools) has authority to revoke the charter, but apparently no authority over the charter’s financing.
It appears the charter school law makes a bungling attempt to get around the constitution. We would all be better off if the spirit and letter of the constitution were followed. Here is an UPDATE from Twin Falls on legislation passed during the recent session.
To insure more advertising-free Boise Guardian news, please consider financial support.