Most of the initial proposals for new charter schools being considered this month by the new Indiana Charter School Board fall into one of two categories.
One the one hand, there are groups of Indiana residents who have decided to create a charter school as an end-run around local school board decisions or practices. On the other, ambitious and politically connected school operators are seeking to expand into Indiana.
The state charter school board, established by the legislature this year as part of an effort to expand the number of charter schools in Indiana, will conduct public hearings this week and next week on the proposals for nine new schools.
In the first category are Canaan Community Academy, Central Indiana Academy and Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy. In the second are BASIS Indianapolis, Carpe Diem Collegiate High School, STEAM Academy of Hammond and East and South Indianapolis Charter Academies.
The ninth proposal, for Anderson Excel Academy, designed by Goodwill Industries primarily for students with disabilities, doesn’t seem to fit in either group.
Canaan Community Academy is being organized by teachers and parents in a small town in southeastern Indiana where the local elementary school was closed by the Madison Consolidated Schools board. The proposal is for an elementary school with only 140 students – which, on its face, would seem contrary to Gov. Mitch Daniels’ efforts to force small schools to consolidate because they’re thought to be inefficient. The Canaan group is also applying to Ball State University for a charter.
Central Indiana Academy – yes, CIA – is an initiative of a Lebanon, Ind., group called Parent Advocates for Gifted Education Inc. Their goal is to create an elementary school that “meets the needs of high ability and high achieving students.” The group believes those needs haven’t been met since Lebanon Community Schools ended a program of separate classrooms for gifted students. As a public charter school, however, CIA would be expected to accept students of varying abilities.
The Fort Wayne Urban League is behind the Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy proposal. According to the application for the K-12 school and an article in the Journal-Gazette, proponents think minority students have not been well served by East Allen Community Schools, which closed Harding High School to avoid a state takeover and dispersed black students to predominantly white suburban schools.
Seeking to expand from charter-school hotbed Arizona to Indianapolis are BASIS and Carpe Diem. BASIS Schools runs six charter schools in Arizona, serving grades 5-12, and has gained national attention for academic rigor. Carpe Diem has four Arizona schools serving students in grades 6-12 and provides half of its instruction online.
STEAM Academy of Hammond is a proposed science and technology school, serving grades K-8. It would be operated by for-profit Mosaica Education Inc., which runs charter schools in Chicago.
East Indianapolis Charter Academy and South Indianapolis Charter Academy are essentially identical proposals from a group of Indiana residents, several with ties to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the Indiana Department of Education and Marian University. But the schools will be run by Charter Schools USA, a Florida for-profit company that the Department of Education chose this summer to operate two high schools and one middle school in Indianapolis that are being taken over by the state.
The applications for the Indianapolis Charter Academies say the K-6 charter schools would serve as “feeder schools” for the takeover schools that CSUSA will run: South for Emma Donnan Middle School and Emmerich Manual High School and East for Thomas Carr Howe High School.
The East application refers – twice – to Thomas Carr High School. Howe High School, named for a former Butler University president, opened its doors in 1938. We all make mistakes, but if CSUSA and its supporters want the support of the people of Indianapolis, they should get the school’s name right.