Do Charter Schools Comply With Idaho Constitution?

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.
Kindergarten students use an interactive whiteboard in the classroom of a public school in Boise, Idaho, USA. MR
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.

I.C. 33-5204
“….(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.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. “We would all be better off if the spirit and letter of the constitution were followed.”

    Okay. But what would that mean in this context?

    EDITOR NOTE–Probably no charter school. An attorney just described charter schools to me as “mongels.” They aren’t private, but they are “private non-profits.” There is no “full faith and credit” of citizens behind the bonds, yet they have authority to borrow. In short, the statutes seem to contradict the constitution. We have yet to find a public body to oversee the expenditure of appropriated funds.

  2. Yes, I agree with your concern. Charter schools are not constitutional. They have been a unnecessary duplication of resources, a suck on resources, etc. As a fiscal conservative, I have been very dismayed by this additional level of government.

    EDITOR NOTE–Mr. Bond, we aren’t sure it is an extra level of government–they claim to be a “corporation” and not government, hence no formal election. More like a PTA at best.

  3. You bring up an interesting point about charter school finances. Looks like they have figured out a partial work around with the passage of the facilities funding by the state legislature.

    The facilities bill for charter schools is going to open a whole can of worms. Public Districts have been successful in court to enforce the constitution. Unfortunately the State has yet to publicly fund facilities for Public schools.

  4. Charter schools are a SCAM. They start out by hand picking their teachers and paying them a whole lot more than teachers in regular school districts. They take out debt and make no provisions for maintenance and repair costs as they generally have a new building. Several years into the program the maintenance issues start and then the fun begins on how to pay the big salaries and keep the lights and heat working.

    Additionally, they cherry pick students from the public schools with a phony emphasis. This is nothing more than a tool to exclude students. Nampa Classical Academy was a great example, they used the bible as one of their texts. They used a charter school to get around the separation of church and state. They got into a financial mess and had to close up shop.

    If parents want to send their kids to a private school then there are plenty of them already around. Just don’t ask me to pay for it. Also, there is no data to support kids get a better education at a charter school.

  5. Since when does the constitution or laws have to be followed? Oh that’s right the citizenry has to follow the rules but, the elected/appointed elite just do what they want. Most things done around here are done with a wink and a nod over a shot of ole #7. Dynamis, probation as an off shoot of the sheriff’s dept, ect, ect.

  6. If I had to the pick of the litter at this point it would be Charter Schooling any day of the week. We experience the most horrid siutations in Meridian High with over crowding of the school, classes and staff whom couldn’t keep their records straight, goes on and on. Meridian needs all the help they can get. It’s all about the Money once more. Quality makes a difference. We wonder why Idaho is nationally low on the totum poll with education. Perhaps there is another means for Charters with some means of support financially as we really do need them.
    Constitunially it is a parents right as well. So does this leave Homeschool which many opt to? Even Alaska provides materials to be educated at home (no cost) with teachers available. It was costing the state $3,000 per year to educated the year verses $10,000 annually for them to be in public school. Just a thought to think on Public. Yes, it has draw backs when parents can’t be home in todays world work attempting to work and paying taxes.
    I also believe Children are far safer in Charters than any public school in these areas. It’s going to get worse and then public schools are going to cry of overcrowding and no money. Instead of the max at 30 students per class a given teacher will 40 to 50. Then everyone will blame the teach due to scores she wasn’t effective enough. This is criminal to the teacher and the kids.
    My two cents.

  7. The existence of charter schools demonstrates the deficiencies of Idaho’s public schools, which are forced to deal with a sneaky Legislature happy to spend bucks on themselves but not on education, and the continual republican majority elections of ignorant,inadequate, party-line type education officers. Ya get what ya votes for, peepul.

  8. Grumpy ole guy
    Apr 16, 2013, 4:31 pm

    Charter schools are many things to many people in many places. They began as another way for Tea Party types to keep their (pure white kids) out of the corrupting influences of public schools. There are many models now-a-days and some are excellent and some are not. They all are in competition with public schools. Yes, in some cases they skim off the cream of the crop of the teachers, and who can blame teachers for following the money to more friendly teaching environments with more supportive parents. In worst cases the administrators inflate their own salaries, pad the administrative staff with their buddies and don’t give a damn about the kids education.
    In Idaho – the Constitution does say that the STATE is responsible for a free public education; but, in the 100 plus years of trying it hasn’t seemed to yet figure out what that means OR how to realize it.

  9. In many states, they are indeed used for minorities, kids with issues, and so on. But it’s true that in Idaho, they’re whiter than surrounding schools.

  10. Yes, in Idaho, charter schools do seem to be a darling of a signficant faction of the right. Not my faction of the right, but a significant faction. This faction is the one that likes to get it some government welfare as much as any left winger!

  11. Rod in SE Boise
    Apr 16, 2013, 8:51 pm

    Every child should attend a fully funded public school. Every child. Fully funded.

  12. The only fully funded education these kids are getting are a desk and text book in Public Schools. There are ID cards to be purchase to attend games, sports have be paid for (baseball cost $200), football was another matter. Art classes ??? over and above.
    So in this time for those who are limited with incomes your child can go to school but let them stand by and watch the others with better incomes excell as otherwise they can’t be a part of the activities. Slam Dunk for so many.
    Once upon a time these were all inclusive. This morning the News indicated cutting and redecorating even the janitorial and teacher wages. These teachers have to continually take classes & educated which is not free either. How many gradeschool teachers are providing supplys for their classes?
    Color isn’t the issue here. It’s all about the money with this system. If Public Schools get more kids back they get more funding but not necessarly better education. The prison systems work on this same concept.

  13. My Two Cents
    Apr 18, 2013, 1:16 pm

    I agree with Flyhead. If you do not want your kids to go to public school, then pay for private school. This ridiculous hybrid of a cherry-picked private school setting but with taxpayer money is just wrong. Do we all remember the Hidden Springs fiasco? They wanted a charter school as I recall but did not want”outsiders” attending (though they were happy to use outsiders’ tax dollars to fund it). We should all strive to make our public schools better, rather than find them lacking and then going elsewhere. And before anyone asks, yes I have a kid who attended public elementary through high schools very successfully.

  14. The Hidden Springs charter school turned out okay. Boise Schools purchased a nice school for 60% of the cost to build it. This might be the best way to fund new buildings since the state will not.

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