Writings and observations

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

From a February 20 Idaho Education News post by Kevin Richert.

Members of the House Education Committee voted unanimously Thursday to introduce a groundbreaking — and potentially controversial — charter school funding bill.

The bill would provide $1.4 million to offset charter schools facility costs.

Because Thursday’s hearing was only an introductory print hearing, legislators did not allow testimony from education stakeholders or the public. Now that the legislation has been introduced, a full public hearing one the charter school proposal will likely occur in the coming days or weeks.

Jason Hancock, deputy chief of staff for the Idaho State Department of Education, said a committee including representatives from the Idaho Public Charter School Commission, school district administrators, the Idaho School Boards Association and Idaho Charter School Network crafted the plan after studying charter school rules and laws since June.

Unlike school districts, charter schools are unable to go to voters to seek bonds or levies to pay for facilities. Instead, Hancock said, charter schools often have to spend 15 and 30 percent of their operations money on facilities.

“During the coruse of their existence, (charter schools) have had to scrimp and save and steal in order to pay for facilities,” Hancock told lawmakers will introducing the bill.”

Ken Burgess, a lobbyist representing charter schools, concedes that the bill sets up an “interesting battle” in the Statehouse.

The pricetag poses one challenge, Burgess said. The second challenge is a matter of precedent: Idaho has historically resisted putting state dollars into school facilities, for traditional schools and charter schools alike.

Charter schools have been forced to siphon off some of their state dollars from classroom needs to facilities, since charter schools cannot use local property tax dollars to pay for facilities. That shift of money, from instructional needs to infrastructure needs, amounts to $7.8 million, or $549 per charter student.

Meanwhile, says Burgess, traditional schools collect $569 per student in building bonds or plant facilities levies — and this is the driving figure in the charter school bill.

In its first year, 2013-14, charter schools would receive a facilities stipend that represents 20 percent of what traditional schools pay for facilities. That comes to about $115 per student, or $1.4 million.
In 2014-15, the stipend would increase to 30 percent of what traditional schools pay for facilities — a cost of about $2 million to $2.1 million.

From there, the math gets even more complicated.

In 2015-16, the charter school facilities stipend could reach 40 percent — but only if the public schools’ general fund appropriation increases by 3 percent or more. If the public schools do not get their 3 percent increase, the bump in the charter schools’ stipend remains on hold.

Eventually, the charter schools could receive a stipend of 50 percent per student — but the facilities stipend would be capped at that point.

Charter school funding was a recurring theme during two House-Senate education committee “listening sessions” earlier this month. At both sessions, charter school advocates argued for funding equity — and money to help pay for facilities.

And the bill is designed to provide funding help for all of Idaho’s 43 charter schools, Burgess said. Roughly half of the state’s charter schools have borrowed money to build facilities — but half lease their buildings, and wouldn’t be helped by a bill that helps charters finance loans at a lower interest rate.

The funding bill is one of two major charter school bills in the works. The second, likely to be introduced next week, would focus on charter school governance issues:

The bill would allow colleges, universities and private nonprofit groups to authorize a charter school. The Students Come First laws had allowed colleges and universities to authorize charters.

It would require an authorizing entity to renew the charter every five years, and would also rework the makeup state’s Public Charter School Commission. Currently, the board must have three current or former charter board members; three current or former members of traditional school boards; and a seventh, at-large member. This bill would get rid of these requirements.

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rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

From time to time, I’m sternly criticized by a reader or three – and an occasional friend – that the musings usually found within these digital pages are too anti-Republican. I’m accused, not necessarily of being a Democrat in journalist’s clothing, but of just not giving support to things GOP. Not finding the good, as it were.

Well, there’s some truth to that last criticism. Trouble is, my critical GOP friends, there’s not much Republican “good” tidings where most of us Americans are these days. We’re just not supporting things Republican. By large numbers.

A new Pew Research poll out this week is the best scientific evidence to date that the “Grand Old Party” is in disfavor on every single issue of national importance. All of ‘em! The statistics are overwhelming.

Taxes and the deficit. The Democrat proposal of a combination of spending cuts and tax increases is supported by 76% across the board. Republicans want only cuts and that gets the support of just 19%.

Raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour? Support is 71% by all but only 50% by Republicans.

Climate change. More than 54% say the most important step to take is developing alternative energy sources (what Democrats want) versus 34% expanding production and drilling more (what Republicans want.)

Gun control. Americans favor new gun legislation 67%-29%. Specifically, expanded background checks 83%-15% – assault weapons ban 56%-41%. Those numbers find Republican and NRA oriented Democrat members of Congress on the losing end on all counts.

Pew sampled immigration. Border security and a path to citizenship – Democrat positions – favored by 47%. The GOP’s stand of prioritizing only enforcement got 25% and on citizenship opportunities 25%. And today’s Republican official position on eventual citizenship consists only of some sort of ill-defined second-class status.

But we’re not done yet. If you re-read these numbers, you’ll find one very startling fact: majorities favor federal government/legislative action on every issue. Every one! That concept – borne out by the numbers – is completely contrary to Republican positions. On all issues, most of us want federal government action. Now!

But, if I were a Republican campaign pro, here’s a result that would really send me straight to the bar. A new Bloomberg sampling this week gives the President a 55% job approval rating – highest in three years! Also, Bloomberg found 49% believe the President’s ideas to increase government spending in key areas are more likely to create jobs.

Finally, more bad GOP numbers news. Just 35% responding in the Bloomberg poll, said they have a favorable view of the Republican Party. Or, conversely, 65% don’t.

So, to the few who think I’m being anti-Republican – read ‘em and weep. What you see in the statistical samplings by both Bloomberg and Pew is a national profile of Americans wanting action on a host of issues – including federal government action – by overwhelming majorities. While Republicans filibuster, quash Democrat attempts to introduce legislation, make 35 failed attempts to repeal Obamacare, hold up cabinet nominations and judgeships, try to outlaw legalized abortion and close the federal government, Americans aren’t buying it. In big numbers!

There was a time – not long ago – when politicians began and ended the day with their noses in polling spreadsheets. While many could be legitimately criticized for shifting positions to keep up with the polled majority, at least they were responsive to where the rest of the country wanted to go. And what Americans were thinking. For Republicans, it seems, not anymore.

Now, a few dozen loudmouths – with no idea how government works – are putting sand in the federal gears while shredding decorum and our patience. They apparently don’t give a damn about the overwhelming evidence that exists about what we want done. In Congress – and far too many state legislatures – we’ve got obstructionists trying to run the ship(s) of state into the nearest dock. We’ve had far more debate on abortion and vaginal probes than legitimate action to create employment and nourish an economy struggling to improve despite government inaction.

The two polls cited here are more important than just a couple of new samplings. They are only the most recent. Over the last several years, others had very similar results. There’s a very big stack of ‘em. And – we’ve soundly re-elected a President who seems to be aligned with these distinct majorities wanting action. The messages “we the people” are sending to Congress and the statehouses are not hard to read.
No, it’s not that the musings here week-to-week are anti-Republican or pro Democrat. Taken in sum – and compared to what polling pros are finding – they seem to be pretty mainstream. None of these survey results on the key issues of the day are “within the margin of error.” Or even close.

What also seems pretty “mainstream” is that the national Republican Party is on a collision course with the rest of America.

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Rainey