NEPC Review: Fairness in Facilities: Why Idaho Public Charter Schools Need More Facilities Funding (Bellwether Education Partners, January 2019)
A report from Bellwether Education Partners contends that more funding should be given for charter school facilities. Focusing on a series of case studies in Idaho, the report argues that charter schools are unfairly denied funding for the construction and renovation of their school buildings. The examples the report relies on, however, are not “apples-to-apples” comparisons, and this makes any statewide generalizations suspect. Further, the report’s calculation of “costs-per-seat” ignores the reality that different students have different needs. Consequently, public district schools, which enroll proportionally more English language learners and students with disabilities, will likely have greater facilities expenses per pupil than charter schools. The report bemoans the fact that charter school facilities are not part of local school districts’ bonds and tax levies, yet it does not acknowledge that charter facilities are often owned by private entities. Mandating that local taxpayers support charter facilities would, therefore, force them to pay for buildings they would not own. Given these limitations, the report provides little guidance for policymakers and other stakeholders at a time when Idaho is working to overhaul its school funding system.