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Senate OKs plan aimed at expanding charter schools

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The Indiana Senate has approved Gov. Mitch Daniels' proposal aimed at expanding charter schools, marking the first piece of the governor's sweeping education agenda to clear both the House and Senate.

The Republican-led Senate voted 29-20 for the bill, which would allow more entities to authorize charter schools. The bill allows charter schools to cheaply buy unused buildings owned by traditional school corporations and increases accountability rules for charters, which are public schools free of many state regulations.

Supporters said more charter schools would mean more options for Indiana parents looking for the best education for their children.

"We have a responsibility to help those parents help themselves," said Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Lafayette. "What are we afraid of, offering parents that choice?"

Seven Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the proposal. Opponents say charter schools siphon money away from traditional public schools.

"There's only so much money in the pie," said Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville. "When you add unlimited charter schools to that equation, you get less money for the rest of the schools."

Sen. Tim Skinner, D-Terre Haute, said the bill is part of a larger attack on traditional education by Daniels and State Superintendent Tony Bennet, both Republicans. He said teacher morale is low across the state as the GOP pushes an aggressive education agenda, which includes the expansion of charter schools.

"We have done irreparable damage, in my opinion, to our public schools," Skinner said.

Supporters point out that charter schools get support from both Democrats and Republicans. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who serves under Democratic President Barack Obama, is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting with Daniels Friday at an Indianapolis charter school.

Bennett said the state has 62 charter schools serving 23,000 students — but that the state needs more charters because demand far exceeds capacity.

"Right now, thousands of Hoosier children sit on charter school waiting lists," Bennett said.

The bill previously had cleared the GOP-ruled House on a 59-37 vote. The Senate made several changes to the House proposal, so the legislation will return to the House for consideration of the latest version.

Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said the Senate tamed the House version of the proposal, which she described as "a charter school bill gone wild."

The Senate version of the bill kept House provisions that would allow a new state board and some private colleges to create charter schools in addition to the current authorizers of school districts, public four-year colleges and the mayor of Indianapolis. But the Senate removed a part of the House bill that would have allowed mayors of smaller cities to create charters. And it removed a provision that would have forced traditional schools to share transportation funding with charters after opponents argued it would be too much of a burden on traditional public schools struggling with budget cuts.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, a Republican from Indianapolis who is the House sponsor of the bill, said he hasn't decided whether to simply accept the Senate changes or continue to work on a compromise. But he said he was pleased the bill cleared the Senate and that the major parts of the plan remain intact.

The bill is the first piece of Daniels' education agenda to clear both the House and Senate. Daniels' other education proposals would:

— Create the nation's most expansive voucher program directing taxpayer money to private schools. The bill has cleared the House and is scheduled for a Senate committee vote Wednesday.

— Restrict teacher collective bargaining. That bill has cleared the Senate and is pending in the House.

— Implement merit pay for teachers by requiring student achievement to account for part of teacher evaluations. That bill has passed the Senate and is scheduled for a House committee vote Wednesday.

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  • Tom, you are wrong!
    Tom, what you miss in all of this discourse is the fact that what you and Daniels want is a separtation of educational systems for the children in Indiana. No! This will lead only to a dysfunctional population. The children in public schools will have a lesser education; the children in charter schools will have a "superior" education, according to Daniels and you and others who support the drive to increase the number of charter schools. I do not believe this is good for any of us and particularly for the children. We need to improve the public schools but NOT to separate them from any other system. A public school system is basic to the American system of equal opportunities and to separate this philosophy into two systems where one economic group has one system and another economic group has another is a recipe for disaster...no, a recipe for total destruction of the American equal rights philosophy. We all know that not all children can afford charter schools and to act like it is not true is dishonest and misleading. Let's try to be honest about the problem; let's improve public education and not change it into private education.
  • Get Real!
    I don't believe what I'm seeing! "Can You Believe This" says "More effort to remove an education from the children of lower and middle class families to allow the more affluent families the quality education that all should get." Um, since when? I drive a bus for a charter school, and I'd say the socioeconomic background of the kids I transport are no different than what I saw driving for IPS. The same will be true of vouchers. The idea is to improve ALL schools for everyone, not pour scarce tax dollars into yet another "kiddie warehouse system: where the graduates are functionally illiterate. again, quoting: "Opponents say charter schools siphon money away from traditional public schools." I certainly HOPE so! The money should stay with the student, not the ISTA. Quoting again: Sen. Tim Skinner, D-Terre Haute, said the bill is part of a larger attack on traditional education by Daniels and State Superintendent Tony Bennet, both Republicans. He said teacher morale is low across the state as the GOP pushes an aggressive education agenda, which includes the expansion of charter schools.

    "We have done irreparable damage, in my opinion, to our public schools," Skinner said. endquote. I certainly hope so, again! Traditional public education has failed, especially in the larger cities. Dump the failed model and go on. And is it "teacher morale", or "ISTA morale"????? There's a difference. Real teachers want the kids to succeed, and go out of their way to make it happen. Regardless of whether or how much they are or are not getting paid. The "damage" to the public schools was done LONG ago, and not by the GOP. (holds mirror up to ISTA) If it's really "for the children", the teachers should be singing Hallelujah! over these proposals. Nuts!
  • I believe it
    The reality is there is not a lot of money being funded to school systems at all and it can not rest all on the shoulders of our decision makers that we vote in. The reality is the taxpayers, for obvious economic reasons, are not approving funding and passing referendums for school districts. The taxpayers are not investing into our own future and economy.

    Also, when businesses (big and small) have to become leaner due to increased expenses and/or decreased revenue, while at the same time struggling to be competitive, they have to be flexible enough to make the appropriate decisions to stay competitive. If Charter schools can do that for us then we have helped our cause for our children and future.
  • "we don't need no education"
    More effort to remove an education from the children of lower and middle class families to allow the more affluent families the quality education that all should get. Anything the legislature enacts should help all children. But we live in the city that supports pro basketball and football teams yet does not have a public library on Thursday. There is something very wrong with the priorities that our current decision makers make.

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