An amended version of House Bill 206—which would earmark a percentage of public schools facility levy funds for public charter schools—passed through the Idaho Senate today on a 20-15 vote.
"The average charter school will receive about $34,000 in one year under this plan," said Idaho Falls Republican Sen. Dean Mortimer, who voted in favor of the measure. "There's a constitutional requirement to provide a general uniform and thorough system of free public common schools and for us to work on those facilities. This bill provides a small step toward that."
But Boise Democratic Sen. Branden Durst argued against the bill, saying it was "taking money out of the general fund."
"We're making new statutory spending," said Durst. "We're just giving them free money."
Coeur d'Alene Republican Sen. John Goedde, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, compared funding for public charter schools as a "Chevy Nova," compared to "Chevy Malibu" funding for traditional public schools.
Goedde added that "$34,000 would be a huge help in paying [a public charter school's] mortgage."
Rupert Republican Sen. Dean Cameron, co-chair of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee, said he took issue with the plan.
"Right or wrong, it's been the public policy of this state that we would not provide facilities [for public charter schools]," said Cameron. "I have a concern that we're embarking down a road where we're admitting that we're going to be paying for facilities."
But the measure passed, sending the amended bill back to the Idaho House for its approval before it can be sent to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter for his consideration.