Idaho doesn't need more charter schools

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In his recent rebuttal (Daily Bee, Nov. 14), Mr. Ryan doesn’t address or refute a single fact put forth by Mr. Cavener. Instead he changes the subject.

Mr. Ryan helped promote the growth of charter schools in Ohio, and left there to come to Idaho to do the same just as the charter school mess in Ohio was receiving more attention. Mr. Ryan takes special care to mention the Catholic school he recently helped open in Boise, but he doesn’t mention the chain of charter schools in Ohio, and several other states, operated by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen to help finance his political activities. Gulen has been in the news lately, as Turkey has been trying to extradite him from the U.S. because he’s suspected of fomenting an attempted coup.

Mr. Ryan also doesn’t mention that about a third of the charter schools in Ohio have closed due to lack of enrollment, financial mismanagement, etcetera. This is one of the main reasons the school system should not be run like a bunch of mom-and-pop small businesses. Mr. Ryan also doesn’t mention that four years ago, the Office of Performance Evaluations of the Idaho Legislature determined that the seven goals that originally formed the intent of the 1998 Idaho charter school authorization law were then (and now) being met by "traditional" public schools. Specifically, they stated, “Changes in public education over the past 15 years have made many of the elements that were intended to separate charter schools from traditional schools now available through either school option.”

Their report further states, “Although intended to separate a charter from a traditional school, the legislative intent written in Idaho Code does little to distinguish the two options in today’s education system.” The report further said that there was no way to determine whether charter schools have met any of the elements of legislative intent “in a way that adds value to the public school system.”

Mr. Ryan is a tool of the Albertson Foundation, which has invested (and profited) heavily from the growth of “virtual” education in Idaho. Albertson foundation heir Joseph Scott was one of the original investors in K12, Inc. through his investment company (Alscott, Inc.), and the Albertson Foundation subsequently helped develop customers for Idaho’s K12 online school (Idaho Virtual Academy), which has made millions from Idaho taxpayers in the process. The Albertson Foundation continues to have an outsized influence on the Idaho legislature.

You might recall the “Luna laws” from six years ago, ultimately rejected by Idaho’s citizens, which would have required Idaho students to take at least four online classes to graduate. Idaho doesn’t need more duplicative, cost-inefficient charter schools. It does, however, need to invest in its existing public school system - this is what a majority of Idaho citizens want.

A change to enrollment-based funding could be good for brick and mortar public schools, but unless the funding formula is crafted carefully, it is ripe for abuse from “virtual” charter schools receiving funding by claiming non-existent “ghost” students, as has occurred in Ohio and elsewhere.”

TODD RILEY

Sandpoint

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