Idaho charters receive millions in private funding


According to a recent announcement by investment bank Piper Sandler, Idaho charter schools have sought and received nearly $81 million in private funding from a single firm to begin and stabilize their operations over the past seven months.

The company announced last month that it has helped nine Idaho deeds obtain a portion of the funds earmarked almost entirely for the acquisition or construction of new facilities.

The total for these schools during this period: $80,863,826.

The transactions represent another source of revenue for Idaho Charters, which hopes to start and expand, absorbing a portion of the K-12 students flooding the school system in a fast-growing state.

About 10% of Idaho’s more than 312,000 public school students participated in a charter.

State operating dollars flow into the charters the same way they flow into school districts: through an obscure formula based on average student attendance. But unlike school districts, state charters can’t vote on bond issues for construction projects — a reality that over the years has forced schools to secure funding for capital projects through a variety of other avenues.

Local property owners pick up bond issue tabs approved by voters. Charters are repaying their private loans, although the state is covering part of their bond payments.

For some charters, funding also comes through state startup grants managed by Idaho Charter Support Group Bluum, which has distributed just over $17.5 million in Gem State since 2019.

Charters also rely heavily on private donations. Grants from the JA and Kathryn Albertson Foundation and other donors totaled more than $27 million through 2019, Bluum CEO Ryan told EdNews last year.

Ryan shared Piper Sandler’s numbers with EdNews last week and said the money represents a diversification of funding from charter facilities.

“This is a lot of new school construction for the students and families of Idaho public schools, and it’s being funded in a really unique way that doesn’t require local taxpayer money,” Ryan said.

Most of the deeds included in Piper Sandler’s announcement are in Treasure Valley. Here is an overview of the schools that received the funding and how much:

  • Gem Prep Meridian South: $10,185,000 in bonds to purchase and build a new school.
  • Elevate Academy North (Post Falls): an $8,778,826 taxable loan for a school slated to open in 2022-23.
  • Elevate Academy Nampa: a $9,835,000 taxable loan for a high school.
  • Gem Preparation Nampa: $10,100,000 in bonds for a school.
  • Gem Preparation Meridian: $9,135,000 in bonds for a new facility.
  • Future Public School (Garden City): $9,395,000 in bonds for a new facility.
  • Gem Prep Pocatello: $7,120,000 in bonds for a new facility.
  • Altura International Academy (Idaho Falls): $8,225,000 in bonds for a new facility.
  • Vision Charter School (Caldwell): $8,090,000 in bonds to refinance a “2016 bond series and 2019 promissory note, eliminating balloon payment risk.”

Disclosure: Idaho Education News and Bluum are both funded by grants from JA and the Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation.

About Devin Bodkin

EdNews Associate Editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and the education of students living in poverty. He lives and works in eastern Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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