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BOISE -- For the first time, Idaho's 40 charter schools are close to getting about $1.4 million to help offset facilities costs when classes begin next fall.

Under a bill approved in the Senate Thursday, charter schools would get a share of tax dollars based on student enrollment.

Idaho Falls Republican Sen. Dean Mortimer said the measure helps equalize funding for charter schools, which unlike traditional schools, can't ask voters to approve a bond levy to pay for operations and facilities costs.

The bill was approved on a 20-15 vote amid opposition from members of both parties. Republicans and Democrats alike criticized sending money to charters when traditional schools are in just as much need.

The House has already approved the legislation. It is now headed to the governor's desk.

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