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Judge backs mayor’s decision to revoke school’s charter

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The Project School in Indianapolis has lost a court battle to remain open after a judge denied an injunction challenging Mayor Greg Ballard's decision to revoke the school’s charter.

Ballard announced July 17 that he planned to close the school due to poor test scores and financial issues, but school officials fought the decision in a formal response three days later and filed for an injunction in federal court to stop the revocation.

On Tuesday, Judge Sarah Evans Barker denied the school’s motion for an injunction, meaning the school at 1145 E. 22nd St. will not open as scheduled on Monday.

“Faced with such dismal results respecting [the school’s] academic and financial health, Mayor Ballard’s decision was factually reasonable and legally permissible,” the judge wrote in her decision. “His revocation of [the school’s] charter was justified not only by concrete facts, but also by statutory law, which clearly afforded him discretion in the matter.”

The 4-year-old school, which is publicly funded, has never seen more than 30 percent of its students pass both the math and reading portions of the state standardized ISTEP test.

This year, the passage rate for the school’s 311 students in grades K-8 was 28.9 percent, according to data released in July by the Indiana Department of Education.

“The Project School ranks among the worst performing schools in Marion County and in the entire state,” Ballard said July 17 in a prepared statement. He added that the school’s 2012 academic results likely would produce an “F” grade under the state’s new accountability standards.

Regarding the school’s financial health, Judge Barker cited in her order that the school had overdrawn its general fund by nearly $225,000 as of June 2010, regularly used restricted funds to pay salaries, failed to submit timely financial data to the mayor’s office, failed to maintain a balanced budget between 2009 and 2012, and regularly used its revolving line of credit to pay expenses.

In a prepared statement, parents of the school expressed their disappointment in the judge’s decision.

“It’s difficult to put into words how sad we are that it has come to this,” said Sherice Ezell, parent of a fifth grader. “As we said from the beginning, nearly every Project School parent has been satisfied with the quality of education at our school. The leadership, teachers and staff have been outstanding.”

Supporters said the school deserved more time time to prove itself because it works with some of the city's most disadvantaged and challenging students.

“Decision-makers have ignored the fact that 100 percent of the 4th and 8th graders who have been here for at least three years passed both parts of the ISTEP last year,” said parent Rachel Maxwell in a prepared statement.  “That proves TPS is getting the job done, when children have spent some time in the program.”

School officials said they are continuing to explore their legal options and possibilities for new charter sponsors.
 

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  • Satisfied
    “It’s difficult to put into words how sad we are that it has come to this,” said Sherice Ezell, parent of a fifth grader. “As we said from the beginning, nearly every Project School parent has been satisfied with the quality of education at our school. The leadership, teachers and staff have been outstanding.” A 30% or less pass rate and all the parents are satified. Maybe thats the problem. Parents that support a school of failing educators and s student body relective of such. Dont even mention the fact that they cannot balance a budget. Another failure. IPS has its issues for sure. But as the "charter school" has proven they cant fix it either. We will have another lost generation of kids getting passed from one charter school to another. As one fails another opens and so on.
  • The Mayor Won/311 Kids Lost
    The Mayor won this battle using some of the most insensitive tactics imaginable. Giving parents and their children less that 3 weeks notice that they have to find a new place to go to school. Had this notice been given 6 months ago, the school might have found another entity to hold its charter. At the very least, parents would not have been blind sided by this decision, leaving them with so little time to enroll their children elsewhere. Both the Judge and the Mayor should now be required to help find suitable schools that fit the needs of the children, many of whom have no appropriate alternative. These officials should have to bear some responsibility for the hardship they have so unnecessarily inflicted on the parents and children of The Project School.
  • $5 Million in Debt
    Was TPS in arrears $5 million? Were vendors being paid in a timely manner? If not, were the administrators doing anything about it?
  • Right Choice
    TPS was a failure of arrogance. The leaders decided to ignore state testing. They decided to alienate the Martindale-Brightwood community. They decided to attack city leadership. They decided to take no responsibility for pathetic scores. They created their own numbers using about 10 percent of the student body. The community does not feel bad about this.
  • ?
    How can you claim the judge got it right when it is obviously that you have no idea what you are talking about? You have no idea what was claimed or rebuttled. You don't even know what type of charter school TPS is, or even the fact that there are different types of charter schools, do you?
  • Judge Got It Right!
    Three cheers to Judge Barker! Those who create Charter Schools have the right to shut down non performers! The reason for charters in the first place is to give those who want a better choice in education to get that better choice. WHY have a charter school that is doing WORSE than the PUBLIC schools? Get a CLUE, parents of this particular school...take your kids to another charter school if they are that 'great' and they can be 'great' there!

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