Free/Reduced Lunch Students Largely Absent in Idaho Charters

Part 3 of an ongoing series regarding a series of information requests that indicate minority students are largely left out of charter schools in Idaho.  Previous posts indicated that special education students and ethnic minority students have a vast under-representation in these schools in comparison to the local community demographic of the surrounding local public school district.

This post adds free/reduced lunch and English Language Learner data to the mix.  Unfortunately, again, the data indicates that minority students in these categories are largely left out of charter school student bodies.

An example from Nampa in Canyon County:

Student free and reduced lunch eligibility is an indicator of families with lower incomes.  61.4% of students in the Nampa School District qualify for free and reduced lunch.  Yet, charters that operate within Nampa have a substantial gap in the number of students attending their schools that are eligible for free and reduced lunch.

A sample of three Nampa charter schools indicates the disparity: Victory Charter has a 32% student population eligible for free and reduced lunch, but that is nearly a 50% difference from the surrounding Nampa School District at 61.4%.  Liberty Charter isn’t much better at an underwhelming 37%.  Legacy Charter follows Liberty closely with 38.5%.  In other words, there is a substantial disparity between the number of low-income students Nampa School District enrolls and the number of low-income students that Nampa charter schools enroll.

This trend continues for special education students.  Nampa School District has nearly 1,500 students who qualify for special education services; with 15,000 students, that’s 10% of the district’s student population.  Despite this demographic norm, Victory and Idaho Arts only have a 5% special education enrollment; again, a difference of almost 50% in comparison to the district where it operates.  Liberty is only slightly better with a 6% special education enrollment.

Keep in mind that special education services can be expensive.  When charter schools do not share an equitable burden for providing services to a proportional amount of special education students, the cost of those services is passed on to taxpayers, often in the form of levies.  Levies, in whole or in part, are often used to pay for important special education services.

This demographic imbalance continues with racial minority groups and the State Department of Education data here is stark.  38.2% of Nampa School District’s students are not white, yet, only 24 of Victory Charter’s 384 students are reported as being from a minority racial group – that’s a shockingly small 6.2%.  Liberty doesn’t do much better at an underwhelming 14.1% of its 404 students.

Keep in mind many minority students also require costly English language learner programs, which means the local school district, like with special education services, picks up a disproportionate amount of the fiscal responsibility.  Unfortunately, this pattern of negligence is consistent across dozens of Idaho’s public charter schools.  While some would argue this disparity is a necessary byproduct of so called school “choice,” we need to inquire why it appears minority student families are actively choosing not to enroll in charter schools.

Below is the data provided by an information request through the Idaho Dept. of Education.  The data is sorted by each building.  I’ve taken the time to average some of the larger districts in the spreadsheet.

Keep in mind the state redacts data when there are fewer than 10 students in a qualifying category in order to shield an individual student from potentially being identified.

Free/Reduced Lunch Data

Student Ethnicity Demographic Data

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

1 thought on “Free/Reduced Lunch Students Largely Absent in Idaho Charters

  1. Brandee

    I believe one reason for the discrepancy is that lower income families, minorities, and special needs often don’t want to deal with the higher expectations at the Charter Schools. Being in a public school, I see many parents and students who just want to get by and aren’t concerned with excelling academically.

    Then there’s the matter of location. Most charter schools are not in low income areas so therefore students who are from those areas are out of district and in the last pool for the very long lottery drawings.

    I believe these facts do indeed give charter schools an unfair advantage but I don’t think it’s the charter schools fault that their demographics aren’t more diversified. It’s a fair lottery system that obviously many low income, minorities, and special needs families choose not to participate in.



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