Muncie schools exempted from state grading, accountability laws

Republicans in the Indiana legislature have been hard-core supporters of school accountability for about as long as I can remember, so it seems odd that they would toss it out the window as part of a deal that hands control of Muncie Community Schools to Ball State University.

But they did. The state law that calls for schools to receive A-to-F grades on the basis of student test scores and other measures? Muncie schools will be exempt. The law requiring state intervention and potential takeover for schools that consistently get low grades? Exempt from that too.

Those provisions of House Bill 1315 got almost no attention in public debate or the news media before the legislation was approved on a near party-line vote in a special session Monday. One wonders how many lawmakers knew they were in the bill before they arrived to get their marching orders.

In general, the legislation doubles down on the state’s year-old takeover of financially troubled Muncie and Gary Community Schools. In addition to inviting Ball State to take charge of Muncie schools, it weakens the elected Gary school board and strengthens the emergency manager who runs the district.

Ball State’s trustees will meet today to approve a resolution to take over Muncie Community Schools. The trustees and Ball State president will appoint a school board to replace the elected Muncie board.

Continue reading

Advertisements

School takeover law would disenfranchise citizens

The most serious problem with the school takeover law that the Indiana legislature is considering is that it will deprive the citizens of Gary and Muncie of the right to elect the people who govern their local public schools.

That’s especially problematic for Gary, a city that is 83 percent African-American. Ninety-three percent of students in Gary Community Schools are African-American. The Republican supermajority in the legislature, likely to back the bill, includes 70 representatives and 41 senators. Every single one is white.

There’s a long history in this country of white people preventing black people from voting. It was supposed to end with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, but apparently it didn’t.

Dwight Gardner, pastor of Gary’s Trinity Baptist Church, referenced that history Monday in testimony to the Legislative Council, according to the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. “The right to vote, to select your own representation, is an essential value of what we call freedom,” he said.

The legislation, House Bill 1315, converts the elected Gary Community Schools board to an advisory board that will have no power and can’t meet more than four times a year. The emergency manager who runs Gary schools would no longer need to consult with the school board and the city’s mayor. Continue reading