BOISE -- Charter schools are an option that is only growing in demand. Along with that growth is the demand for equality, specifically when it comes to funding.
In fact, hundreds of kids marched to the capitol on Wednesday asking for that very thing, because just about every charter school struggles financially.
Those problems were made apparent last week when DaVinci Charter School told their students' parents it did not have enough money to finish the school year.
KTVB's Scott Evans looked into what is being done on the state level to make sure charter schools not only survive, but also thrive.
Charter schools offer parents options in their teaching style. Just as the styles are different, so are how they are run.
On Friday, February 1st, some DaVinci Charter School students were saying their goodbyes.
I have two children for sure leaving today. This is their last day, and we're focusing only on them, said kindergarten teacher Elizabeth Sackman, who is wading into uncharted waters. This school has the possibility of closing. It's like nothing we've ever heard before, ever. No one would ever imagine this could happen.
The reason: finances.
When I took over six years ago, we're now down to about 49 percent of the budget we had at that time, said DaVinci Charter School Director Cindy Hoovel.
Statewide cuts to education hit her school hard. Then two years ago, the school was forced to move from a building to portable classrooms.
For a school that operates, in essence, paycheck to paycheck the move proved to be too much.
Unlike traditional public schools, charter schools do not have a safety net.
We cannot use any local tax money, said Hoovel. We cannot pass an emergency levy when something like that happens, and if you've noticed around the state, that's pretty much what's happening with pretty much all traditional schools and most of them are getting them passed.
Without options, the school continued to do something its done for the last four years, overestimate student attendance at the beginning of the year to get an advanced payment from the state.
And this school year it was off by 24 percent.
While DaVinci did nothing illegal, it made digging themselves out of a hole nearly impossible.
It's hard for a small charter school, and without any facility money, and unexpected things, and you're just on the edge and having to face being fiscally responsible, said Hoovel.
Since 1998, six of the 44 charter schools that have opened are now closed. Five of the six cite finances as a contributing factor for closing.
However, some schools, like Liberty Charter in Nampa have found ways to make it work.
I think charter schools have done an extremely good job of showing how you can do more with less, said Gayle O'Donahue, Communications Specialist for Liberty Charter.
Liberty operates under the philosophy of overestimating expenses and underestimating revenue. It is one reason it has survived when others have not.
Everything that we do, we look at not only what's best for kids, but also what ensures that we will be financially solvent, said O'Donahue.
It's that ability to be financially solvent that could be the downfall of DaVinci. If that happens, over 120 kids would need to find new classrooms March 1st.
Something has to be done to accommodate those students. We can't turn away students in public education, said Senator John Goedde, Chair of the Senate Education Committee.
Goedde says when lawmakers wrote the charter school laws over a decade ago, there was no history to work off of. Since then, there has been very little change to the laws.
I think it deserves to be looked at. I don't know that there are specific changes that need to be made at this point, but it needs to be looked at, said Goedde.
Others agree. It was one of the main talking points last week during a Joint House and Senate Education Committee hearing.
Marilyn Whitney with the Idaho Charter School Commission says this just might be the year that legislation could come forward.
There will very likely be measures considered in the future that will do something to address some of the challenges that the charter schools face, said Whitney.
Just last year, lawmakers removed one obstacle, the cap on how many charter schools could open each year.
The commission is always looking at ways that they can continue to support charter schools and continue to support the growth of choice through charter schools, said Whitney.
As the choices grow, parents will have more options. Not only how a school teaches, but how they manage their books as well.
KTVB asked Hoovel if she feels like she failed. I'm to the point I feel I've done everything I possibly can There's not much I haven't tried that we're aware of, Hoovel answered. We still believe in possibilities, and we're not giving up until it's flat out - no more chances possible.
DaVinci will decide on February 15th if it will close at the end of the month.
Also at the end of the month, the state is hosting an open workshop to help people who want to start a new charter school.
Check out KTVB's school choice page for information and resources on all the options for education in Idaho including the differences between public, charter, magnet, private, and home schools.