School takeover bill passes despite opposition

Indiana lawmakers are handing over distressed school corporations and trying to prevent more in the future.

Posted: May 14, 2018 6:24 PM

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WLFI) - Indiana lawmakers are handing over distressed school corporations and trying to prevent more in the future.

According to a bill passed during the special session Monday, Ball State University will take over the Muncie School Corporation. However, it wasn't approved without opposition.

After lots of back and forth, the bill passed through both the House and the Senate.

"Just as it is in a soccer match, sometimes you have winners and sometimes you have losers," said State Rep. Sheila Klinker.

However, Muncie State Representative Sue Errington doesn't feel like her people got a chance to play.

"It's very unsettling for a community to be sort of a spectator of what the state is going to do to us," said Errington.

Errington feels House Bill 1315 goes against the way public school systems were designed.

"It's undemocratic to take away the vote of the people who are paying the property taxes to support this school system and who live there," said Errington. "And it's our children who are going to that school."

The bill gives Ball State University full control of the Muncie School Corporation without an end date.

"There is nothing in the bill that says in 10, 20 years the voters will get their vote back," said Errington.

It's a decision that has divided Muncie and lawmakers in the same party.

"And I don't think it had to if they had included more people who live in Muncie, who represent Muncie," said Errington.

However, Representative Sally Siegrist said a recent legislative council meeting made her feel like Muncie was included in this decision.

"Members of the Muncie school board said they were in favor of 1315, teachers from the Muncie school system said they were in favor of 1315 and parents said they were in favor of it," said Siegrist.

Siegrist said she voted no because her constituents were against it. However, she does like the bill's confidential "dash board" to help prevent future distressed school corporations. Siegrist said financial issues need to be addressed early and in private first, so there isn't a premature reaction from the public.

"If there is a panic and parents begin to withdraw their children from a school corporation that school corporation will lose the per diem per student so their revenue will go down. That won't help if they are a distressed unit," said Siegrist.

However a lack of transparency and local control are the two reasons Sen. Ron Alting and Rep. Sheila Klinker voted no.

"Everything should be transparent in this world, particularly in a school takeover," said Alting.

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education passed out fliers listing 10 reasons to vote no on Monday. It concentrated on the laws Muncie schools will no longer be subject to, including school letter grades.

"We'll be watching that very carefully as we go through the process and if there are some changes to be made then that can be taken up in next year's session," said Klinker.

No one disputes the fact something needed to be done to help current distressed schools and corporations facing this issue in the future. Only time will tell if the legislation is the solution.

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