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Indy Schools chief demands charter investigation

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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.

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  • Waste of Dr. White's time
    Dr. White should focus on running the IPS system rather than this minor issue affecting maybe 20 students. With ten charter schools involved and 20 students, it would not appear to be a deliberate strategy by the charter schools, more likely just an effort to get rid of a problem student.
    **
    The state should investigate but I am not certain that interviewing (and taping) 72 families is a good use of IPS resources including Dr. White's time.
  • push the blame off
    Dr. White is just looking for someway to turn attention away from his miserable failure. So once again, he blames the charters.
  • NS Indy
    Our school district is struggling with the same problem. Sadly, it has become a numbers game in the last few years seeing how many students mysteriously return after count day. They either need to do an investigation or have a second count day during second semester. Also, if there is any question regarding a charter school not being able to serve the public, this absolutely should be looked at. They should be held accountable on every level that public schools are.
  • Uh, wait...
    he DOE has better things to do with it's investigation budget, liking finding out why Dr. White hasn't been fired yet for incompetence.

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