IDEA Public Schools, Coming Soon to Southern Louisiana, is a Public Charter School Network—What Does That Mean?

Disclosure :: This post is sponsored by IDEA Public Schools. When we published our first post on IDEA Public Schools we received LOTS of additional questions. We hope this post answers some of those questions! 

IDEA Public Schools, Coming Soon to Southern Louisiana, is a Public Charter School Network—What Does That Mean?

 You may have heard, that in 2018, IDEA Public Schools will open two charter schools in Baton Rouge.  Like many parents, you may be wondering what exactly is a charter schoolIDEA Public Schools, Coming Soon to Southern Louisiana, is a Public Charter School Network—What Does That Mean?And more importantly, is it a good educational option for my child

What is a Charter School?

Charter schools are independently operated public schools, funded partially by the state and local school district.  They’re granted greater freedom in operations, in return for higher performance goals and academic results specified in their contract, or “charter,” made and agreed upon by school leaders and, in IDEA’s case East Baton Rouge district officials.  

How is IDEA funded and are they taking funding and students from local school districts?

Like all public charter schools, IDEA receives state and local funding and is held fully accountable to the same accountability measures as traditional district schools. IDEA will receive funding from a number of federal, state, and local government agencies as well as from private and public foundations and individual philanthropists whose investments illustrate their support for IDEA’s mission. 

IDEA Public Schools is interested in partnering with local districts across Southern Louisiana to send more students to and through college. In fact, last year, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board granted approval for IDEA Public Schools to open charter schools in the parish.  IDEA was one of only two new charter schools authorized by the district to open in the capitol city, and we are honored to be the newest member of EBR Schools.

The Data

IDEA believes all students can achieve at a very high-level regardless of income, geography, demographics, or special education needs. Public charter schools are free, non-discriminatory, and do not have special entrance requirements.  Ample evidence suggests that public charter schools perform better than traditional public schools on a national level, particularly for low-income students of color.  A 2015 report by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that overall, students enrolled in urban charter schools gained 40 additional days of learning in math and 28 additional days in reading compared to their traditional public school peers.   More specifically, IDEA Public Schools out-performed state and local district averages in the regions in which they have schools the past two years, and is identified locally and nationally as one of the most successful charter networks in the country.   

So why the stigma around public charter schools?   

Kenneth Campbell, IDEA Southern Louisiana’s Executive Director and respected education leader, noted that regarding charter schools, “Community members in Baton Rouge have been made promises that just haven’t been kept.”  In 2009, Baton Rouge experienced a surge in charter school presence.  Traditional public schools that hadn’t performed well were taken over by the state, which contracted with community and education leaders to operate them as charter schools, in an attempt to remedy consistently poor academic results.  Unfortunately, many of the groups that courageously agreed to take on the daunting task of trying to turn around schools that had the most severe challenges and the longest histories of poor performance, simply did not have the capacity they needed for the job. Consequently, many of the charters we unsuccessful. 

Because charters are independently operated, their track-record of success varies by school.  While charters perform well on a macro-level, it’s important for parents to conduct sufficient research about any charter school before enrolling their children.  What is the charter school’s role, scope, and mission? How many years has the charter school, program, or system existed?  How do children perform academically?  Does the charter offer a program that matches my child’s interest or that will put him or her on a path to success? Because charter schools are all different and because no one is assigned to a charter school, the ultimate question for parents is whether a particular charter school is a good fit for their child. 

IDEA’s Beginnings 

IDEA Public Schools was started in 1998 by then Teach For America corps members Tom Torkelson and JoAnn Gama in Donna, Texas.  It was created as a way to help combat some of the major educational deficiencies they saw in their students, focusing the program on student achievement and college readiness.  Torkelson and Gama named the program IDEA, an acronym for “Individuals Dedicated to Excellence and Achievement.” Beginning with grades 4 to 8 at one campus, IDEA has grown rapidly, thanks to ground-breaking student success in high-needs areas.  IDEA Public Schools now operates 51 schools in 3 regions, and will soon expand to 5 regions, including Southern Louisiana in 2018.  

IDEA Public Schools now serves nearly 30,000 students and prides itself in the belief that each and every one of their scholars can and will go to college.  IDEA was recently named America’s Best Charter School Network and boasts national rankings on The Washington Post and U.S. News & World Report’s top high schools lists. More importantly, IDEA is on-track to maintain its legacy of sending 100% of its graduates to college—10 years and counting. 

Interested in Learning More?

Kenneth Campbell, a national expert on quality charter school policy who has been working with charters for more than twenty years, is thrilled to lead IDEA Public Schools into Baton Rouge to begin building a bright, next chapter for educational quality in the Southern Louisiana. 

But, don’t just take it from us. We want you to hear from IDEA families, teachers, parents and students. We encourage you to visit to learn more about IDEA Public Schools and read about the impact they’re making on their News & Events page. Would you like to connect with the Southern Louisiana region directly? Send an inquiry to


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here