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Bill would expand charters to more adults in Indiana

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More adults could have a chance to attend a charter school under a bill an Indiana Senate committee debated Wednesday.

Senate Bill 159, authored by Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, would allow the creation of new adult high schools and create an appropriation for the charter schools so they don’t pull their funding from K-12 funds.

The Excel Center has nine adult charter schools in Anderson, Indianapolis, Kokomo, Lafayette and Richmond. It allows adults ages 18 and older who have dropped out of high school to obtain a high school diploma instead of a GED. The centers also offer daycare to help parents make it to their classes.

During an Education and Career Development Committee meeting, Kenley said the schools are “a very positive and promising activity” and “appear to be having a great deal of success.”

The existing bill requires that the hours of operation for the adult schools are flexible, that no more than 25 percent of schooling can be completed online. The schools must follow up with graduates to track their success outside of the program.

Scott Bess, an officer of Goodwill Education Initiatives Inc., told lawmakers about success stories from the Excel center, including a mother who graduated from the Anderson center and is a now full-time student at Indiana State University studying education. He said she planned to return to the Excel Center as a high school math instructor. Bess also highlighted the accomplishments of another graduate who is now working for Coca-Cola.

The demand for the schools, according to Bess, has been on the rise since the first center opened in August 2010 with 300 students. Bess said the numbers jumped to 3,000 by March 2011.

“These people wanted something additional,” Bess said.

A similar bill, House Bill 1028, is currently before lawmakers. However, Sally Sloan of the American Federation of Teachers, and John Barnes, director of Legislative Affairs for the Department of Education, believe the Senate bill is better because of the separate funding measures that ensure no money is withdrawn from K-12 funding, which was a concern with the House bill.

There was no opposition to SB 159 but committee chair, Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, decided to amend the bill before presenting it for a vote next week.

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