The superintendent of the state's largest school district requested a state investigation Monday into his allegations that charter schools are turning away homeless and disabled students in violation of state and federal laws.
Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White wrote Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett requesting the investigation into enrollment practices at all charter schools operating within the troubled district's boundaries and at 10 schools in particular. White said six of the 10 schools have threatened to expel students only to give parents the option of withdrawing students to avoid expulsion.
"The ongoing denial of the existence of this problem by state officials and media has led IPS to formalize an interview process with parents that is documented with notarized statements. You will find the notarized statements attached," White said in his letter.
The Indiana Department of Education will review the information White provided, agency spokesman Alex Damron said.
"It's too early at this point to validate or invalidate the specific claims within Dr. White's letter," Damron said.
However, Indiana Public Charter Schools Association President Russ Simnick said White's claim of discrimination by charter schools was "a tired myth that's been around a long time."
White alleges the public schools enroll students at the start of a school year "only to put them out of school immediately after" the state's count date for determining funding to public schools. He said 72 students have returned to IPS since the September count date while 27 students have left IPS for charter schools. IPS' website says it enrolls about 34,000 students.
Six students returning to IPS "could not be served because the school did not provide the student with the needed special education services," White said. Five students were homeless. Failing to serve homeless students violates federal law. Failing to serve special needs students violates state and federal laws.
Simnick said Department of Education data showed charter schools don't discriminate. He said a high number of students move to and from urban public schools, including charters, because parents change jobs or move their families to different parts of town.
"I have yet to hear a single parent come forward and say a charter school is denying them access to the services they require," Simnick said.
The state could address the problem of students moving to new schools after the September count date by having multiple count dates throughout the school year, "which we would support," the charter schools representative said.
White last week apologized for his comments in a radio interview that IPS, unlike charter and private schools, cannot turn away hard-to-educate students.
"We take everybody that come through the door, whether they are blind, crippled, crazy," he told WIBC-FM.
White last month threatened to sue the state to block its takeover of three high schools and a middle school. He later said that rather than sue, IPS would stop providing sports and other extracurricular activities at those schools.