Healthy, factual debate serves everyone well

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The Bonner County Daily Bee recently published a column by Caldwell teacher Levi B. Cavener titled “Is Charter School Fraud Coming to Idaho?” There were many inaccuracies in Cavener’s piece, almost too many to list. But I’d like to set the record straight on a few.

Yes, the history of public charter schools in Ohio is a tough one, and anyone paying attention to politics in the U.S. today will well understand how brutal the public arena has become in Ohio and other key battle ground states in national elections.

But there have been many successful charter schools in Ohio. I would point Cavener to KIPP Columbus, which serves 100 percent low-income students and recently received a $3 million grant from Battelle to help the school become a world-class in Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) institution.

Cavener might also read up on the Dayton Early College Academy which provides that post-industrial city access to one of Ohio’s top-performing high schools. It is also important to note that the charter school sector in Cleveland posted higher test scores this year than the traditional district schools.

More directly relevant to Idaho is the work Bluum is doing with our partners here. We have provided grant support to Grace Lutheran High School, so that the former K-8 school in Pocatello could expand to high school after 60-plus years. We work to help public charter schools in eastern Idaho, like Gem Prep Pocatello, Alturas International Academy and the Connor Academy build buildings and serve more students.

In the Boise area, we have worked in recent months to help support the launch of the first new Catholic school in the Treasure Valley in 50 years. St. Ignatius Catholic school opened in August and now provides outstanding educational opportunities for more than 400 students, many of them receiving scholarship support to attend the school.

This year we also supported the Nampa Public School District’s new innovation school Treasure Valley Leadership Academy. We are excited about the new public charter school that will open in Garden City as a partnership with the local Boys and Girls Club in August of 2018. Future Public School, approved by the Idaho Public Charter School Commission last summer, will offer all-day kindergarten and an extended day and year for some of Boise’s neediest families. It will serve more than 500 children annually at full enrollment.

While in Rathdrum we provided grant support to the outstanding North Idaho STEM Charter Academy to add an additional 370 new school seats.

At Bluum we believe that school choice helps families, children and educators achieve more and do better. We are committed to ensuring that Idaho’s children reach their fullest potential by cultivating great leaders and innovative schools. This is our mission and purpose. We are very transparent about it (see bluum.org/2016-annual-report).

A healthy debate on education issues serves everyone well. That means sticking to the facts, which Cavener’s column unfortunately failed to do.

Terry Ryan is CEO of the Boise-based education nonprofit Bluum.

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