Indiana House OKs looser rules on selling old schools

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School districts would get a break on how long they have to hold onto their vacant buildings as possible charter school sites under a measure the Indiana House approved Monday.

Legislators proposed the changes after two school districts in the Fort Wayne area ran into legal troubles trying to sell unused buildings even though no charter school operators wanted them.

The House voted 98-0 in favor of cutting the current four-year waiting period to two years and allowing a fast-track, 30-day period for selling a closed school. The bill now goes to the Senate, which already is considering a similar measure.

The 2011 law on the sale of unused schools was sponsored by Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, who said the intent was to address situations in which public school districts were purposely refusing to sell buildings to charter schools to avoid competition.

Rep. Matthew Lehman, R-Berne, said he sponsored the changes because the four-year waiting period was too long since the school districts faced spending thousands of dollars to maintain the vacant buildings.

The bill would allow school districts with an interested buyer to seek a waiver from the state Department of Education on the two-year waiting period. The department would then give a 30-day window for a charter school operator to claim the building by giving notice to the state charter schools association and charter school sponsors, including the Indiana Charter Schools Board, Ball State University and the Indianapolis mayor's office.

Any charter school wanting to take over a vacant building would have to have a plan to start using it for classroom instruction within a year.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said the bill improves what he believes is a bad current law that allows privately operated charter schools to take over public property for $1.

"I wish we would repeal the whole thing, but I do believe this bill makes it substantially better," Pelath said.

An Allen County judge ruled against the current law in December, finding that the waiting period didn't change other laws on how school districts can sell property and forced districts to incur unnecessary costs.

The Indiana Public Charter Schools Association had challenged the Fort Wayne Community Schools' plan to sell an unused elementary school building to the county airport board and the East Allen County district's attempt to sell a vacant school to the Fort Wayne-South Bend Catholic Diocese.


  • Another Example of Failing to Protect the Taxpayers First
    Being a wealth-worshiping state, it's not surprising that the Indiana Republican super-majority would do everything possible to help privateers make a profit, including at the taxpayers' expense. These school buidings are worth more than $1.00 each, and the money paid to privateers is taken from public school budgets. Privateer-run schools do not necessarily do better than public schools, and after they get comfortable with making a profit, they'll cut back on quality teachers, and the problems with just re-surface. This is wrong.

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  1. why oh why does this state continue to elect these people....do you wonder how much was graft out of the 3.8 billion?

  2. i too think this is a great idea. I think the vision and need is there as well. But also agree with Wendy that there may be better location in our city to fulfill this vision and help grow the sports of hockey and figure skating in Indy. Also to help further develop other parts of the city that seem often forgotten. Any of the other 6 townships out side of the three northernmost could benefit greatly from a facility and a vision like this. For a vision that sounds philanthropic, the location is appears more about the money. Would really like to see it elsewhere, but still wish the development the best of luck, as we can always use more ice in the city. As for the Ice growth when they return, if schedules can be coordinated with the Fuel, what could be better than to have high level hockey available to go see every weekend of the season? Good luck with the development and the return of the Ice.

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  4. You do not get speeding ticket first time you speed and this is not first time Mr.Page has speed. One act should not define a man and this one act won't. He got off with a slap on the wrist. I agree with judge no person was injured by his actions. The state was robbed of money by paying too much rent for a building and that money could have been used for social services. The Page family maybe "generous" with their money but for most part all of it is dirty money that he obtained for sources that are not on the upright. Page is the kind of lawyer that gives lawyers a bad name. He paid off this judge like he has many other tine and walked away. Does he still have his license. I believe so. Hire him to get you confiscated drug money back. He will. It will cost you.

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