Data Shows Disparity in Minority Student Enrollment at Idaho’s Charter Schools

Supt. Ybarra addresses pro-charter supporters at a Boise, Idaho rally.

Supt. Ybarra addresses pro-charter supporters at a Boise, Idaho rally.

Part 1 of a multi-part series.  Part 2 will focus on Special Education students in Idaho’s charters.  Stay tuned.  Edit: Original post identified Taylor’s crossing as being in Idaho Falls District; it is in Bonneville District and post has been updated to reflect this.

Shortly after inauguration, one of Superintendent Ybarra’s first public events was to demonstrate her support for Idaho’s growing number of charter schools.  Betsy Russell in the Spokesman Review reported Ybarra telling the crowd:

Instead of pitting charter schools and traditional schools against one another … we must instead build a bridge of communication to one another so that we can take the best from each educational option and create successful, effective options for all

That message is a great piece of wisdom that (hopefully) indicates a willingness by the current administration to address the current picture of charter schools in Idaho; that is because the most recent student enrollment data of Idaho’s charters indicates an enormous disparity of racial and special needs enrollment in Idaho’s charters in comparison to the surrounding public school district that desperately needs to be addressed.

Remember: Charter schools are public schools operated with public tax money.  That means that charters are open to all Idaho students and cannot discriminate based upon race, religion, special needs, or any other criteria that a private school could impose if it so chose.

Data Transmitted from Idaho Dept. of Education from a recent information request is depressing, at best, and heartbreaking, at worst in the incomprehensible disparity between demographics of charter schools and their surrounding “home” districts.

Note: If a total minority population is 10 or below, the Idaho Dept. of Education redacts the number from public data in order to prevent the possibility that a single student in a school/district could be specifically identified.  This may slightly skew the results below; however, consider that if a total minority population is 10 or below, that itself, says volumes about the problem.

An example.  Pocatello Community Charter School is located in the heart of the Pocatello School District.  Demographic data for the 2014-2015 school year indicates that Pocatello Community Charter has a total of 320 students.  The data reported indicates that all 320 of those students are white.

In other words, based on the available data, Pocatello Community Charter is 100% white.  So, what’s the problem?  Theoretically the makeup of Pocatello Community Charter should be reflective of the surrounding demographics of the public school district (Pocatello District #25) right?

Wrong.  Pocatello School District has a total of 12,538 students of which 10,211 are White and 2327 are made up of minority population subgroups.  In other words, Pocatello District is 81% white and made up of 19% of various minority subgroups.

Despite the fact that nearly 1 out of every 5 students in Pocatello enrolls as a minority population student, Pocatello Community Charter’s data indicates that so few minority students are enrolled at the charter that the state has redacted the actual number for reasons spelled out for the reasons described in the note above.

While it’s doubtful that Pocatello Community Charter actually has zero minority students, the problem becomes abundantly clear:  minority students are disproportionately not attending charter schools in comparison to the surrounding public school district.

Unfortunately, Pocatello Community Charter’s illustration isn’t an isolated data point.  Below is a sampling of demographic disparities between charters and their surrounding “home” districts using the 2014-2015 school year data.  A recurring theme, unfortunately, becomes startlingly obvious.

  • Vision Charter (Caldwell, Idaho)
    • Total Students: 678
    • Total White Students: 598 / 88%
    • Total Minority Students: 80 / 12%
  • Caldwell School District
    • Total Students 6201
    • Total White students: 2,289 / 37%
    • Total Minority students: 3,912 / 63%
  • Total Disparity in minority student enrollment: 51%
  • Victory Charter (Nampa, Idaho)
    • Total Students: 383
    • Total White Students: 359 / 94%
    • Total Minority Students: 24 / 6%
  • Surrounding Nampa School District
    • Total Students: 14,908
    • Total White Students: 9,255 / 62%
    • Total Minority Students 5,653 / 38%
  • Total Disparity in Minority student enrollment: 32%
  • Liberty Charter (Nampa, Idaho)
    • Total Students: 404
    • Total White Students: 347 / 85%
    • Total Minority Students: 57 / 14%
  • Surrounding Nampa School District
    • Total Students: 14,908
    • Total White Students: 9,255 / 62%
    • Total Minority Students 5,653 / 38%
  • Total Disparity in Minority student enrollment: 24%
  • Taylor’s Crossing Charter (Idaho Falls, Idaho)
    • Total Students: 401
    • Total White Students: 382 / 95%
    • Total Minority Students: 19 / 5%
  • Surrounding Bonneville School District
    • Total Students: 11,924
    • Total White Students: 9,910 / 83%
    • Total Minority Students: 2014 / 17%
  • Total disparity in Minority student enrollment: 12%

Future blog posts will explore possible explanations for why minority populations are disproportionately not enrolling in charters.

The actual data provided by Idaho Department of Education is available below.  Please note that the data starts with the 2011-2012 school year and continues until the present school year.  

Feel free to scroll through the data and make comparisons between the local public school and charter schools operating in the boundaries for yourself.

Also below is a key to the population abbreviations:

Name Description Abbreviation SdeCode
American Indian or Alaskan Native American Indian or Alaskan Native AM AM
Asian or Pacific Islander Asian or Pacific Islander AS AS
Black Black BL BL
Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Isla Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Isla HO HO
White White WH WH
Hispanic or Latino Hispanic or Latino H Y
Not Hispanic or Latino Not Hispanic or Latino NOT N
TwoOrMoreRaces Two or more races M M

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