Boise School Board Accuses Albertson Foundation Of Undermining Public Schools

Feb 24, 2016

The Boise School Board and the district’s superintendent have come out with some sharp criticism of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. The rebuke comes in the form of an op-ed related to how the foundation portrays Idaho schools. 

At the center of the controversy is a TV commercial from the Albertson Foundation’s “Don’t Fail Idaho” campaign. In it, a school bus with five teenagers stops in the middle of nowhere. Four get off and the bus drives away. Then a voice says...

“Four out of five Idaho kids are not prepared for life after high school. If we don’t work together to improve education, we’re all going nowhere.”

Maria Greeley, a member of Boise’s school board, says the ad is misleading. 

“It’s a negative campaign that is demoralizing to our teachers,” Greeley says. “And it also undermines our student successes. And I do not believe it is accurate.”

The four out of five number from the commercial refers to SAT scores. The company that does the SAT says that about 20 percent of Idaho kids who took the test in 2014 had a high probability of getting a good GPA at a four-year college.

Greeley says that’s not the same thing as four out of five kids not being prepared for life after high school.

“There are many other predictors to understanding if a student’s going to succeed,” Greeley says. “We have the Advanced Placement, there’s duel credit, there’s the courses at the professional tech center.”

But beyond the ad campaign, Greeley and the other Boise School Board members say the Albertson Foundation is trying to undermine traditional public schools to promote charter schools.

The foundation has always been a big supporter of charter schools, but it used to donate to innovative projects at traditional schools as well. About a year ago, The foundation stopped contributions at traditional schools and increased its emphasis on charters. That includes setting the goal of “creating 20,000 new high-performing charter, private and innovative public school seats by 2025,” and creating an organization called BLUUM to work toward that goal. 

When contacted for a response, an Albertson Foundation spokesman declined to comment. 

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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