Authorization for ag-tech charter school may violate law

The Indiana State Board of Education has ruled that the authorization of Indiana Agriculture and Technology School may violate state law, calling into question the future of the charter school with a novel approach that blends online learning and visits to a working farm.

In a notice of violation, the board tells the school’s authorizer, Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson United School Corp., that it isn’t permitted to authorize a virtual charter school that operates beyond the district’s boundaries. It calls for the school district to respond to the notice by March 10.

“It is imperative that NHJ address this matter in a timely manner, as failure to do so may result in the revocation of NHJ’s authorizer status,” the notice says.

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Regulations proposed for virtual schools

New accountability could be coming to Indiana’s online K-12 schools. A State Board of Education committee is recommending stricter oversight, limits on growth and class size and other measures targeting “virtual schools,” most of which are charter schools.

The board will consider the proposals today. Most would require action by the Indiana General Assembly, which begins its 2019 session in January.

The committee on virtual schools was created in response to low tests scores and other issues at virtual charter schools. In one example, a Chalkbeat Indiana investigation found that Indiana Virtual School graduated few students, had a student-teacher ratio of over 200-to-1 and paid millions of dollars in rent and management fees to a business run by its founder. Continue reading

Charter-school authorizing by private colleges not the norm

Indiana is in a small club when it comes to having charter schools authorized by private colleges and universities. And the state’s hands-off approach to letting certain faith-based colleges authorize charter schools … well, that seems to be in a category by itself.

This topic came up last month when the Indiana Coalition for Public Education-Monroe County sued over the state’s charter-school law. The lawsuit raised a question: Is Indiana the only state that delegates the power to open a public school – an essential government function — to religious institutions with no state oversight.

Each of the 44 states with charter-school laws has its own approach to authorizing the schools. Fifteen states permit colleges and universities to authorize, according to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. But seven of those states restrict authorizing to public colleges and universities.

That means there are presumably eight states in which private colleges could authorize charter schools. But in practice, there are only three states where they have done so: Minnesota, Missouri and Indiana.

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