Senate introduces plan to remove cap on charter schools


From left to right, Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell, and Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, are members of an interim legislative committee examining the public defender system in the state.

The Senate Education Committee introduced a plan Monday to remove the cap on the amount of charter schools that can be created in Idaho in a single year, though the legislation may never see the light of day.

The removal of the cap comes in preparation for the possible awarding of Race to the Top grants by the U.S. Department of Education.  Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur D’Alene, said he is unsure of how the cap will affect the grants, but said he wants to be ready to remove the cap should it be required by the department.

Race to the Top is the Obama administration’s $4 billion grant program, which will provide funds to school districts to upgrade school data systems, as well as provide funds for other statewide programs.  (You can read about Idaho’s application for grants here.)

The legislation to remove the cap was introduced with a slew of other bills Monday as the committee moved through bills quickly to meet the deadline for introducing legislation.  As a non-privileged committee in the Legislature, the Senate Education Committee is not allowed to introduce legislation after Tuesday.  The removal of the cap would not have been been explained for committee or the public in attendance had it not been for the objection of Sen. Kate Kelly, D-Boise, who expressed concerns over Sen. Gary Shroeder’s, R-Moscow, move to introduce the legislation without discussion.

Though the legislation has been introduced, Goedde said he plans to hold the bill until the committee knows more regarding the details of the grant program.  He said the last thing he wants is to have the Legislature adjourn and have the cap on charter schools hold Idaho back from receiving grant funding, a circumstance for which he Gov. Butch Otter would not call lawmakers back for a special session to remove the cap.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said Idaho districts stand a 50-50 chance of receiving funding from Race to the Top.

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