Ready for a good news story with a frustrating twist? Our local Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy has been ranked the #1 public high school in Idaho by US News. It was also named #67 in the top 100 public high schools in the nation by Newsweek.
And the competition was not even close. No other Idaho school made the national top 100 list, (two southern Idaho schools were ranked 853 and 876) and the school second to Charter for state rankings was significantly behind Charter in Math and English proficiencies, which the Charter kids aced at 100% for each category. (For local comparison, CdA High was 89% for Math and 79% for English, Lake City was 77% for Math and 74% for English.)
Charter’s high marks and accolades should give our community a sense of pride. We have an outstanding school of choice that offers excellent instruction to motivated students who are willing to work hard. Isn’t that the epitome of great education?
But this exceptional PUBLIC school gets ZERO dollars from the $50 million in local school levies and bonds passed in the last two years. They have never received one penny of local taxpayer money, yet they are a public school in District 271. The Charter Academy is even overlooked by the Excel Foundation, which is supposed to support excellence in education in our district.
There is no tuition at Charter. It is funded only by state dollars. It gets the same per-student funding as any other small school in Idaho, only Charter does not get local money as well. And now they are having financial problems because state budget cutbacks have reduced their revenues by 30%.
I listened to Charter Academy Principal Dan Nicklay speak about his school this morning. While enthusiastic about Charter, he cautioned that it is not for everyone. Their mission statement says they are “dedicated to providing a rigorous, content-rich, college preparatory education for any students who are willing to accept the challenge”. What I love about that is the “rigorous, content-rich…for students who are willing to accept the challenge”. That philosophy of education can translate into any area of focus, for students choosing the college prep track or those pursuing technical specialties or specific skills certification. Shouldn’t all education aim for challenging, content-rich rigor?
And Charter does their job well. 100% of the graduating seniors at this college prep school go on to college. Principal Nicklay says he hears back from his graduates that college is easy, and that the content, work ethic and organizational skills they learned at Charter have helped them succeed.
The Legislature needs to take a serious look at the funding mechanisms for charter schools. We do not want to discourage the important innovation and progress being made at schools like these. Let’s reward success. Charter is already a no-frills operation, in their renovated garden center building off of Kathleen Ave., augmented by discarded portable classrooms purchased from the school district for $1. They put their money into getting the best, most passionate teachers available and then provide them with a classroom of eager learners. Seems like a good equation, doesn’t it?
If you want to help, there are two things you can do. First, you can talk to or email your legislators and ask them to help improve the funding for charter schools.
You can click here to find a list of area legislators and click here for contact info.
And, secondly, you can donate to the CdA Charter Academy. Any amount will help. They make the most out of every dollar. Their address is: 4904 N. Duncan Drive, CdA, ID 83815 Their web site is www.cdacharter.org
Have a great weekend!