Bluum Monthly Newsletter -  September 2019

Learning Opportunities in Public Charter Schools are Growing in Idaho

Bluum has been working in partnership with the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, and nonprofit facilities group Building Hope, toward the goal of creating 20,000 new high-performing school seats in 10 years since 2014. This fall, 1,108 students started the year off in 5 new or renovated charter school facilities. Compass Public Charter School in Meridian, Forge International School in Middleton and Elevate Academy welcomed their students to new facilities, while Treasure Valley Classical Academy in Fruitland and Gem Prep Pocatello welcomed students to renovated facilities in their communities that not only serve students well but bring life back to parts of their community that were losing business and population. When these schools reach full enrollment by 2025, that will add up to a lot of learning; 2,274 new seats to be exact.

It’s not only about new seats – quality is our focus, because quality is what counts. New ISAT achievement data from the Idaho State Department of Education show that our investments in these innovative models and exceptional leaders are paying dividends for Idaho’s students. The Gem State’s public charter schools as a sector are serving children well academically, across all student subgroups, with Bluum’s portfolio schools leading all schools in all categories for student academic performance and growth (click to expand chart).


We recognize successful schools are led by talented and committed  leaders, governed by professional boards, and rooted to their local communities. Each provides a unique model of learning and a deep commitment to serving a diverse student body. Most importantly, each provides the opportunity for Idaho’s kids and families to pursue the learning option that best fits their needs, desires, and dreams.
 
These models are the newest additions to a diverse portfolio of 18 (and counting) Bluum supported schools. As one of the two fastest-growing states in the nation, high-quality charter schools are an important part of Idaho’s educational landscape.

RELATED:
New Compass Charter School Building Opens in Meridian
New Charter School Opens its Doors Boasting a Classical Education for K-6
Gem Prep Cuts Ribbon for Permanent Home

Welcome, Clinton!

Meet Treasure Valley Classical Academy's School Leadership Fellow

I was introduced to Idaho in January 2018, when I arrived in snow-covered Coeur d’Alene to teach American government at North Idaho College. The Gem State made a good impression on me: its landscape was varied and beautiful; its climate was desirable; and, last but not least, its people were uncommonly amiable, self-reliant, and patriotic. Idaho struck me as a place that was still “young”—still growing and still full of unrealized potential.

While in Coeur d’Alene, I kept an eye out for new charter schools scheduled to open in the near future. Knowing that my job at NIC was only temporary, I faced the necessity of finding new employment. But much more importantly, among the prospects open to liberal-arts PhDs, that of helping to lead a classical, liberal-arts charter school ranked as the most attractive to me.


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Great STEM Charter Schools Need a Professional Governing Board

by Terry Ryan

White Pine Charter School in Ammon is working to bring an innovative Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics high school to students and families in Idaho Falls. I have been involved in this project with the school’s leadership and supporters for several years now. Their emphasis has been on creating a best-in-class STEM high school. In 2017, I took a group of White Pine board members and administrators to Ohio to visit several of that state’s outstanding public STEM academies.

Ohio’s standalone STEM schools operate very much like a public charter school under their own state law... Nothing in Ohio’s STEM law, however, requires individual STEM schools to have elected school boards. The emphasis around governance is on professional experience, board capacity and technical competence...

Some argue, including the Post Register’s editorial board, that public charter schools like White Pine should have elected school boards just like traditional public school districts. Top-performing STEM schools and public charter schools do not have elected school boards. This might sound undemocratic to some, but here are three reasons why it isn’t.

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Second Round of Competition Begins

For Federal Charter School Program Grant Funds


The second round of grant competition opened on September 4th. Grants are available for the startup, replication, or expansion of up to seven public charter schools. Funding comes from a $17.1 million U.S. Department of Education grant awarded last year to Idaho’s Communities of Excellence consortium. A full timeline for this round of competition is available here.

RELATED:
Podcast Interview - The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly of Funding Charter Schools with Terry Ryan
The Federal Charter Schools Program: A Short, But Opinionated History

How Should Idaho Charter Schools Think About Fund Balances?

Guest Post by Matt Kuzio, Board Chair of Future Public School

A fund balance is the total of all unrestricted funds that a school has on hand.  In budgeting, it is traditionally measured against the operating budget of the school and most often thought of in percentage terms to determine the fund’s overall health.  In Idaho, charters average fund balances of 30%.

The purpose of a fund balance is to help maintain school operations during an economic downturn or other unplanned financial hardships (fire, lawsuit, etc).  These unforeseen circumstances are not predictable but should be planned for.  As a publicly funded organization, a charter school is subject to the local and global economic forces around it.  For example, in response to the “Great Recession,” K-12 inflation-adjusted budgets decreased by 13% between 2010 and 2013 and then took another three years to return to above pre-recession levels.   A charter school with a $2 million annual budget would have needed $1.2 million in reserve funds (60%) to maintain operations during this seven-year period.


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In The News
Innovative Idaho School Ahead of the Pack in Rethinking High School Transcripts
by Alan Gottlieb
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Sovereign Community School in Oklahoma City is Part of a Larger Movement
by Caroline Halter

Sovereign Community School is new charter school in Oklahoma City with a focus on Native American culture and identity. It’s also part of a movement of tribes and tribal citizens using publicly funded, privately run schools to take control over the education of Native children.

Phil Gover is the founder of Sovereign Community School. He belongs to the Pauite, Pawnee and Comanche Nations, and he started developing the school in 2017 after visiting a charter school in New Mexico called the Native American Community Academy.

Summer Wesley relocated her family of six so that her 11-year-old daughter could attend Sovereign this year. 

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Artificial Intelligence: Preparing Students for the Future With AI
by Rachelle Dene Poth

We have all likely heard the concerns regarding AI and how it might impact educators. The most common: whether or not artificial intelligence will replace teachers. Other concerns are whether AI will replace many of the other positions held in different industries of work and if it will continue to evolve to the point where it does in fact take on human capabilities beyond what it has been programmed to do or what it learns how to do as it iterates. We also have to be cautious when it comes to privacy. In particular, when using virtual assistants; for example, Amazon’s Alexa was reported to be recording conversations. All of these are valid questions and concerns that need to be considered.

 

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About Bluum

Bluum is a non-profit organization committed to ensuring Idaho’s children reach their fullest potential by cultivating great leaders and innovative schools. Bluum believes that school choice helps families, children and educators achieve more and do better. Bluum works to help Idaho become a national model for how to maximize learning opportunities for children and families. Learn more at Bluum.org or click here to read our introductory blog post.
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