Tag Archives: Charter

2019 Reviewed and 2020 Previewed: A Teacher’s Perspective

Levi B Cavener

By Levi B Cavener

The twenties are almost upon us. And while this decade will no doubt be different than the “Roaring 20’s” a century ago, perhaps there are some lessons to learn by looking to the past.

That time period, like today, was defined by the absence of large scale war in our country and the world. Unions were in decline much as they are today. And the economy was on sound footing similar to a decade of continuous GDP growth as of today.

But the end of that decade was marked by Black Tuesday, a stock market crash that ushered in the next decade of economic free-fall and depression that crippled the nation for years. And while one would hope that the United States and Idaho are not on the verge of another recession to rival 2008, the fault lines are becoming visible. Continue reading


Highlights From Today’s Idaho Charter School Minority Student Civil Rights Summit

Bluum hosted a Civil Rights Summit in Boise today in which they brought in two guest civil rights attourneys from Washington DC, Lauren Baum and Renita Thukral, to provide information regarding civil rights law and procedures for Idaho public schools; specifically, Idaho’s charter schools compliance with minority student enrollment and compliance with civil rights law.

2015-10-07 19.19.33

The forum was attended by a variety of charter stakeholders including charter school principals, board members, and teachers.  The speakers presented information civil rights eduction law information specific to Communidad Y Justicia’s Office for Civil Rights complaint which alleges charter schools in Idaho engage in discriminatory practices against minority students in including ethnicity, Limited English Proficiency (LEP), Free/Reduced Lunch (FRL), and Special Education students. Continue reading

Boise Weekly features Cavener regarding charter demographic data

citizen_levicavenerI don’t know about the caricature, but the interview is pretty darn good.  It’s worth checking out.

A snippet from the Boise Weekly article:

Teaching is a passion. Teaching students with disabilities is doubly so. Levi Cavener, an instructor at Vallivue High School in Caldwell, has been a special education instructor for five years. As an undergraduate at the University of Idaho, he spent time abroad through the Camp Adventure program, exploring Europe with children whose parents were serving in the military. One child lost a parent during Cavener’s time in the program and he described others as “genuinely alone,” not hearing from parents for weeks on end. Those experiences helped ignite his passion for education.



Weekend wrap-up: Charters in Idaho, OpEds, and Brown v Board of Ed Anniversary

Mrs. Nettie Hunt, sitting on steps of Supreme Court, holding newspaper, explaining to her daughter Nikie the meaning of the Supreme Court's decision banning school segregation.  Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division LC-USZ62-127042

On the supreme court steps, a mother explaining to her daughter the impact of the Brown v Board of Ed Decision.  Via Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Today marks the 61st anniversary of Brown v Board of Education; while many point to this decision as ending black segregation in southern schools (which certainly is true), the implications of this US Supreme Court decision were much far more reaching.

The high court’s decision impacted minority students in general;  the ruling has been used in order to integrate students not just with different skin colors, but those students who speak different languages, practice different religions (or no religion at all), or who have disabilities.

Unfortunately, a few weeks ago Idaho’s State Charter Commission released its first ever annual report regarding student enrollment demographic data at Idaho’s charter schools.  The depressing data indicated that minority students (of all kinds) were largely left out of Idaho’s charter schools.

With few exceptions, the Commission’s findings indicated that charters in Idaho were not reflective on the communities’ demographics; instead, minority students were largely absent in public charter schools, even in areas of high minority populations (e.g. areas of high Latino and Spanish-speaking student enrollment).

This report barely made a dent in the news cycle; as far as I can gather only IdahoEdNews and a short blurb from Betsy Russell via her online blog mentioned the findings.

I had already been blogging and writing about the disparity in minority enrollment at Idaho charter schools via several information requests for  enrollment data from the Idaho Dept. of Education.  Those posts explored in detail how non-white students, special education students, and Free/Reduced lunch qualifying students were disproportionately left out of charter schools in comparison to the surrounding school districts’ enrollment demographics.

Prior to the State releasing it’s own report, I wrote an OpEd published in various outlets including IdahoEdNews exploring some of the disparity in student enrollment, particularly in Canyon County where I live.  That writing was met with a competing essay by Amy Russell, Communications Coordinator for the Idaho Charter School Network (the lobbying arm of Idaho’s Charter Schools).

Ms. Russell not so subtlety suggested in her writing that I had cherry-picked data “that do not fully represent the variability that takes place” from school to school I chose to include which led to a biased and inaccurate reflection of Idaho’s charter school demographics.

Screenshot 2015-05-17 at 10.45.00 AM

Terry Ryan, President of the Idaho Charter School Network, went one step further and explicitly accused me of cherry-picking the data I utilized in the column.

Screenshot 2015-05-17 at 10.51.41 AM

That response struck me as odd; As far back as 2006 Vanderbilt University had distributed their research indicating that Idaho’s charters were not doing a very good job at being inclusive places for minority populations; in other words, my findings weren’t really anything new.  Here’s a sample of their findings back in 2006:

Screenshot 2015-05-17 at 11.06.22 AM

In any case, shortly after those competing sets of writings were published, the Idaho Charter Commission released its own independent report which dispelled any doubt regarding the wild imbalance of charter school demographics in comparison to their neighboring traditional districts.  I also encourage anyone who cares to read the report’s companion, Understanding the Annual Report.

Here’s a sample of just how bad the student imbalance is in Idaho Charters:

Charter Chart

That’s right, only 1 in 10 Idaho charters are reflective of the surrounding community’s ethnic demographics.

The report prompted me to write a follow-up OpEd, also published across the state, sharing the report’s findings with citizens in Idaho.  Again, that OpEd was met with competing writing from Idaho Charter School Network, this time from Terry Ryan.

In Mr. Ryan’s editorial, he acknowledged the demographic gap in minority student enrollment exposed in the report and the need to help charters become more inclusive places for minority students; however, his solution to make this a reality was a call build more charter schools.  Mr. Ryan’s writing states:

Screenshot 2015-05-17 at 11.43.14 AM

Sorry, but that “solution” strikes me as being counterproductive.  See, we already have charter schools in locations with high populations of minority students.  There is no need to build additional charters for minority students; rather, there is simply a need to make existing charter schools more inclusive.

And while I can certainly sympathize with funding structures that make it difficult for charter schools to build facilities, charter schools in Idaho have managed to build facilities that largely are not sharing in an equitable burden in providing special services for minority students including English Language Instruction and Special Education services.

In other words, the facilities are already here.  The problem is not that we need to build more; the problem is that we need to fix the ones already in place before we foolishly continue building more charters and exasperate the issue further.

As mentioned earlier, this week marks the anniversary of the US Supreme Court Brown v Board decision; I find it only appropriate in the wake of the Charter Commission Report’s findings to ask for a moratorium on Idaho’s charter schools until we address the imbalance, and I wrote an OpEd declaring this position this week.

Here’s a short list of ways to improve minority student enrollment in Idaho’s Charter Schools.  I fully anticipate some of these items won’t be popular:

  • End preferences  during lottery given for founders of charters
  • End preferences during lottery given for employees of charters
  • End preferences given to parents who have siblings in charters
  • End the newly made preference during lottery that is given to any student who was enrolled in any charter school during the previous academic school year
  • Provide busing transportation to all of Idaho’s charters
  • Provide free/reduced lunch programs at all of Idaho’s charters
  • Provide genuine minority service instruction including:
    • English Language Learner programs
    • True Special Education programs including resource rooms / extended resource rooms providing specialized instruction for special education students as mandated in their Individualized Education Plan
    • Response to Intervention (RTI) programs for struggling students.

In this polarized political environment our nation has found itself in, a question often presents itself querying how citizens came to be so far apart and not willing to engage in compromise.  Part of answering that question directly relates to the ability to empathize with someone else’s opinion and viewpoint.

The single best way to help cultivate empathy is to make sure starting at a young age that children have opportunities to interact with peers different from themselves; different languages, cultures, religions, family dynamics, and engagement with individuals with disabilities allows a student opportunities to build empathy for individuals different than themselves, an ability to understand points of view even if at the end of the day they do not agree.

Unfortunately, it appears that charter schools are largely denying students this opportunity; instead, data demonstrates that Idaho’s charter school environments a largely monocultures of homogenous student groups.

Isn’t it time to do something about it?


Complaint Filed Against Idaho charter schools to Office of Civil Rights

PrintToday the Idaho Latino Advocacy group Communidad y Justicia issued a scathing complaint to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) declaring that Idaho’s charter schools are violating state and federal law by failing to provide services for minority populations including non-native English speakers, non-white students, Free and Reduced Lunch students, and special education students

This complaint comes on the heals of several stinging reports both via my own information requests with the Idaho Department of Education as well as a newly released report by the state’s Charter Commission detailing in depth the wild disparity between the demographics of charter schools’ student bodies and those of their surrounding traditional public school districts.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Few Special Education Students Find Success in Idaho’s Charters

CDA Population

2013-2014 Child Find Data

CDA Charter Pop

2013-2014 Child Find Data



See a problem?





Note:  All data referenced below utilizes the 2013-2014 school year as that is the most recent set of Special Education Student Data (Child Find) available.

Part 2 of an ongoing series regarding demographic data of students in Idaho’s charters.  The last post spotlighted how minority ethnic populations are largely left out of charter schools relative to the proportional enrollment would expect based on the surrounding local public school district.

This post explores special education student enrollment in Idaho’s charters.  Like minority populations, special education students also appear to enroll in a disproportionate number that one would expect based on the local school district.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Well, You Asked . . .

By Kevin S Wilson

What the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation Doesn’t Want People to Know about Charter Schools, Hedge Funds, Tax Breaks, and Andy Smarick

laughFor nearly two years, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation has been a primary sponsor and promoter of the ED SESSIONS, a monthly speaker series featuring what the foundation bills as “national / international education reformers who are promoters of civil discourse about school improvement and wholesale reform.” Advertised at various times as “an invitation to begin a dialogue” and as “a conversation,” the ED SESSIONS are aimed at “parents, educators, policymakers, and everyone in Idaho”—unless, apparently, you are a parent, educator, policymaker, or an anyone in Idaho who asks inconvenient questions.

If you are, then you’re likely to find that your questions receive no answers, but elicit only the sound of chirping crickets. Ask enough inconvenient questions, and you may find yourself banned from the ED SESSIONS page on Facebook and find that all of your inconvenient questions have been deleted. Continue reading

We’re new! Why are we here?

Idaho’s Promise is an organization that focuses on ensuring every student in Idaho is provided with a world class education, regardless of the zip code the student lives in.

Idaho’s Promise advocates for laws and policies that provide a first rate equitable learning experience for every student in Idaho’s classrooms.  Current education policy has resulted in an unbalanced system in Idaho where students are not necessarily provided a uniform system of education as the Idaho Constitution requires.

Current issues of concern are an unbalanced system of taxation to fund districts, corporate ties to public charter schools, untrained professionals working with students as “highly qualified” instructors including Teach for America (TFA) employees, and corporate interference in public education policy through the guise of “philanthropy.”

This site is a platform to help encourage productive discussion, debate, and positive outcomes of education policy in Idaho.