Why couldn’t they find a solution?
The Treasure Valley Classical Academy: is an open-enrollment, tuition-free public charter school in Fruitland, Idaho. All Treasure Valley students in Idaho are eligible to attend, with seats filled through a lottery system. The school opened in August 2019 for students K-6 and currently serves students in grades K-9. One grade was to be added each year through grade 12 to serve Treasure Valley students with grades K-12. Currently, there are 228 students on a waiting list to attend this school.
School Choice: I have spoken about the importance of school choice many times in the past and for some reason the message that Charter Schools are just as important as Public Schools seems to have been lost in Fruitland Idaho. We are quite concerned about a recent planning and zoning committee vote to deny a Conditional Use Permit for the expansion of the Treasure Valley Classical Academy which would build a new campus for students from grades 7th to 12.
P&Z denies CUP: On June 13, 2023, the Fruitland Planning and Zoning commission held the Conditional Use Permit hearing for TVCA Upper School expansion. At that hearing, they denied the application for a Conditional Use Permit and offered no guidance towards making this property a viable option for building a school addition. It appears to us that the P&Z commission intends to deny any realistic approach to resolving this situation in an equitable manner. The only alternative for the school is to appeal to the Fruitland city council who have the power to reverse this decision and a meeting has been set to address the matter of reversing the P&Z’s decision.
Why a Last-Minute Denial: The TVCA school board has jumped through just about every hoop that the P&Z has asked them to address in their purported problems with this addition. Unfortunately, they made this last-minute denial for this project, and we must all ask the question Why? Are the politicians playing games again when it comes to addressing school choice? We already know that the Superintendent of Instruction Debbie Critchfield has indicated that she is for school choice as long as you choose a government-run public school. We hope that there has not been any biased political influence in making this decision to deny this conditional use permit for TVCA.
School Choice is Important: The Gem State Patriot has been a strong supporter of the TVCA school for some time and for good reasons. Having visited the school several times and seen how it is run I must say that this would be the school I would choose for my children to attend rather than a government-run school with all the indoctrination policies of the federal government. The cost burden to build this new school from 7th through 12th grades will fall on the people whose children attend this TVCA and contributions from supporters. This is unlike the annual bond issues that are put forward by public schools at obscure times of the year to issue bonds and raise your taxes to cover future school expenses. We should all remember when the people spoke in a vote to turn down an almost half-a-billion-bond levy for the largest school district in Idaho at a special election this past year.
P&Z Problems are Prevalent in Growing Communities: We have all heard and listened to the highly publicized problems that were brought up recently by the Garden City P&Z where they wanted to put up 700 new apartments on the Plantation golf course which would have drastically changed the rules and density and were totally inappropriate for the area. In the end a compromise was made, and the density was reduced drastically to accommodate the current residents of Plantation but at a substantial cost to not only the taxpayers but to the current residents who had to pay for an attorney to fight this move. Certainly, everyone involved in this dispute could have found better places to spend their hard-earned money.
I have a unique perspective on this issue: I currently serve as the chairman of a P&Z commission in another county. I have learned over time serving on this board it is important to look at every project brought before us as if it were me making the proposal. Most members of P&Z boards have little or no experience in making these types of decisions that can have both good and bad effects on the communities they serve. In many cases, attempts are often made to influence the decisions of the P&Z commissioners by those who may have a vested interest in the outcome of their decision. While every project must be looked at objectively its current and future value to the community must also be weighed. In many cases these decisions can have both long-term positive and negative effects, so it is important to have second opinions from different prespectives. In our case, second opinions come from our county commissioners
Let me put on my P&Z hat: In my opinion the TVCA is a valuable asset to have in a community. It is important that we as citizens access its potential value to the entire community, not just special interests who may or may not want to see this CUP approved. Certainly, the addition of this facility will enhance educational choice for residents of the Treasure Valley and therefore every effort should be made to solve the current problems to issue this permit. After reading the P&Z report I would say that the problems that have been brought to light are all solvable if everyone comes to the table with a cooperative spirit and open mind to find rational solutions.
This project is a diamond in the rough: This proposed project is going to expand a current high-quality educational facility to the area at a minimal cost to the taxpayers. This in itself should be reason enough to find solutions to the current objections. It will also bring new people to the community who want to be close to the school their children attend. Over time this project will increase the demand for housing for the parents of the enrolled students and in turn, will bring more tax revenues to the community. The P&Z along with the city council should be looking at these important future economic advantages in addition to having this quality education facility. I get letters from parents all the time complaining about the quality of education in public schools and find it difficult to argue with them. I find it hard to believe that all 9 individuals on this P&Z commission were so short-sighted as to vote 9 to 0 opposing this project without trying to find a viable solution. It makes me think there are ulterior forces at work who are opposed to the expansion of this growing educational facility that will do nothing but enhance the value of living in a town like Fruitland.
Overriding this bad decision: I would urge the City Council members and Mayor of Fruitland to carefully reassess this project and take note that this is a gift to the town and the taxpayers that will keep on giving for decades in the future with the graduation of each successive class from TVCA. I would urge everyone to read this article by Darren Svan: https://www.idahoednews.org/top-news/zoning-denial-throws-charter-schools-expansion-into-question/ before attending the City Council meeting and try to address these seven problems with solutions. If all else fails, the alternative for the people of Fruitland to have the final say will be in the next election when they will cast their ballots for a new mayor and city council members.
Remember: “We Get the Government We Deserve”.