BOISE, Idaho – BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho public charter school that unsuccessfully sued the state for barring use of the Bible as a historical text in the classroom will be shuttered because of financial troubles, officials said Thursday.
The Idaho Public Charter School Commission voted to revoke Nampa Classical Academy's charter, citing a lack of stability in the school's finances, despite a school board member's plea "for grace and mercy."
While school administrators complain they've been unfairly targeted because of their differences with the state over use of the Bible, the commission insists the academy's money troubles are to blame.
The charter school ended classes two weeks earlier than planned this year after federal funds that were budgeted for did not come through. The state also highlighted a $140,000 hole in the academy's budget for this fiscal year, though school administrators say they're working toward financial solvency and will balance their budget.
The financial dilemmas are not unlike those any other charter school would run into during its first year of operation, said Erik Makrush, who sits on Nampa Classical Academy's governing board.
"We are aggressively appealing this decision to the state Board of Education," Makrush told The Associated Press.
While other Idaho charter schools have been closed, this is the first to have its charter revoked by the state's six-year-old charter school commission. The panel was created to give charter schools another route to approval, besides the local school district, and now governs about half of the charter schools in the state.
These schools are funded with public money but given more freedom in how they operate.
The Nampa academy opened with more than 550 students, making it one of the largest charter schools in the state. More than 500 kids are enrolled for next year.
School administrators plan to file an injunction in state court to keep Idaho officials from cutting off their state funding while they appeal the commission's decision to revoke their charter, Makrush said.
The charter school is already challenging the state on another legal front, appealing the dismissal of a federal lawsuit against Idaho officials for banning the use of the Bible and other religious texts as classroom teaching tools.
The school opened last fall and wanted to use the Bible for its literary and historic qualities, as part of a secular education program. The plan, however, prompted the commission to review use of religious texts in the classroom.
The U.S. Supreme Court banned ceremonial school Bible readings in 1963 but said "the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities" so long as material is "presented objectively as part of a secular program of education."
But the commission concluded in August that the school could not use the Bible, adopting Idaho deputy attorney general's opinion that found the state constitution "expressly" limits use of religious texts.
The school sued in September, saying the state had illegally barred use of the Bible as an instructional text.
U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge dismissed the case in May, saying the ban did not violate the school's rights. The school is challenging that ruling in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.