To the Editor:
Here’s how inaccurate information can spread quickly:
Education Week, in its Charters & Choice column, published an Associated Press article about a report from The Times-News newspaper out of Twin Falls, Idaho, suggesting that Idaho state officials can’t account for how four of the state’s virtual charter schools spent much of their funding (“Questions Raised About Spending of Virtual Schools,” April 16, 2008).
The problem is that the original report by The Times-News was incomplete and untrue, and it resulted in a wave of misinformation about Idaho’s virtual schools. The premise of the report was so flawed that the chairman of the Idaho Public Charter School Commission, the state body responsible for oversight and authorization of virtual charter schools, wrote the paper’s editor to set the record straight.
Here are just some of the critical facts that The Times-News’ “examination” failed to report: Virtual charter schools, like all public schools, are required by state law to produce a balanced budget approved by the schools’ boards of directors and must conduct full financial audits each year. These documents, all of which are public information, are submitted to the Idaho Department of Education and the Idaho Public Charter School Commission for review.
The Times-News claimed to examine the Idaho Virtual Academy, yet it did not bother to look at the school’s financials, and also failed to acknowledge that the school has a three-year record of clean audits. There is no “missing money.” Indeed, every dollar is accounted for.
Apparently, The Times-News did not understand the law passed by the Idaho legislature in 2004—with overwhelming bipartisan support—that permitted virtual charter schools greater flexibility to use state funds, since their costs are very different from traditional schools’. For example, traditional schools have much higher personnel and overhead costs, while virtual schools generally spend more on technology, curriculum, and student-related costs.
The accurate story is that Idaho’s virtual charter schools are the most accountable of all public schools and a popular option for many parents and teachers.
Head of School
Idaho Virtual Academy
A version of this article appeared in the April 30, 2008 edition of Education Week as A ‘Wave of Misinformation’ On Idaho’s Virtual Charters