INTERVIEW: Charter School Commission Director explains investigation into east Idaho charter schools

Listen to KID NewsRadio’s interview with Idaho Public Charter School Commission Director Tamara Baysinger



IDAHO FALLS, Idaho ー The Idaho Public Charter School Commission is recommending an east Idaho charter school’s charter for renewal provided the school can meet certain conditions.

Members of the Idaho Public Charter School Commission met with staff members at both Blackfoot Charter Community Learning Center and Bingham Academy following allegations of financial mismanagement.

“Some former board members of one of the schools came to us expressing a variety of concerns that were important for us as the school’s authorizer to look into to discover whether or not they were grounded, in fact and needed to be addressed,” Tamara Baysinger, Director of the Idaho Public Charter School Commission, told KID NewsRadio. “We worked with the schools over the course of a couple of months to look through a variety of documents to determine whether or not those issues were founded. We followed up with a visit to the schools last week and spoke with the boards of each. They were very responsive and eager to chat with us about what was and wasn’t a matter of concern and really expressed willingness to deal with the issues that were identified.”

Some of the identified concerns, according to a letter Baysinger sent both schools following the commission’s visit, involve improving how financial transactions are documented.

“Implementation of stronger internal controls and operational practices will help you better manage BCCLC’s expenditures and protect the interests of all parties, including students, employees, taxpayers, and the school itself,” according to the letter. “Because the school has lacked strong internal controls in the past, the Public Charter School Commission will be contracting with an independent forensic auditor to review BCCLC’s use of public funds.”

While both schools faced allegations, Baysinger said the investigation also happened to coincide with the BCCLC’s scheduled charter renewal. As part of the renewal process, which occurs every five years for public charter schools, the Attorney General issues a renewal recommendation letter and this has caused some confusion and concern with some who have followed the investigation into the allegations.

“When our staff sends out a renewal recommendation to any school, that letter comes through our deputy attorney general who serves as counsel to the Public Charter School Commission. That’s typical for any state agency,” Baysinger said. “The reason for that is simply because it is a formal legal process. So, any school, regardless of anything else that might be going on would get that kind of a letter with our recommendation from the Attorney General’s office. So, there’s nothing out of the ordinary there. The AG’s office has not been involved with this investigation into these allegations against the school.”

Additionally, the investigation and the conditions for renewal are not indications of potentially closing doors at the schools, Baysinger said. Both schools eagerly agreed to work with the commission to come back into compliance.

“No immediate action is going to take place,” Baysinger said. “Employees don’t need to be worried about their jobs. Families don’t need to be worried about where their child is going to be going to school next week. If there is something systemically wrong with the school, there is a potential for eventually the authorizer to non-renew the charter and close that school. But, that is a not a common occurrence and it’s certainly not something that wouldn’t happen without many months of warning.”

Investigating allegations like those facing BCCLC and Bingham Academy, Baysinger said, are no different than investigating claims against a traditional public school. BCCLC is receiving a recommendation for renewal, and both schools have been given a pathway to remedy the issues identified by the commission.

“We are recommending that the charter be renewed with certain conditions for necessary improvement,” Baysinger said. “We’ll be working with the boards of both schools to help them implement those changes and hopefully both of them will come out as stronger, better schools as a result.”

Read both letters from the Idaho Public Charter School Commission to Blackfoot Charter Community Learning Center and Bingham Academy: