Operators of takeover schools worry about funding

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Private companies that were hired to run five Indiana schools taken over by the state for poor performance say they might not be able to continue because of funding concerns.

The companies received federal grant money when they stepped in to run four Indianapolis schools and one in Gary. But the schools won't know until July whether they will receive School Improvement Grants again this year. Some of the grants have been delayed because of a discrepancy in the amount of funding that the Indiana Department of Education and U.S. Department of Education needed to work out, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Under their contracts with the state, the private companies can withdraw with 60 days' notice. That could mean a group that gave notice this month would sever its ties with a takeover school after the school year begins in August.

EdPower CEO Marcus Robinson said turnaround schools have more expenses and need the grant money to supplement their normal state subsidy. The federal government provides the grants, which are administered by the state.

Robinson said withdrawing from running Arlington High School is a possibility if the company doesn't receive about $1.3 million in extra aid it got last year. But he said doing so would be a "catastrophe" for the students, the community and the staff.

"We love the kids in this building. They're very much a part of our hearts, very much ingratiated in our work. But ultimately, if we can't get this grant, we can't afford to do the work," he told WRTV.

State schools superintendent Glenda Ritz said the Indiana Department of Education is working quickly to inform schools whether they will receive the grants.

Some State Board of Education members have questioned her department's commitment to the takeover schools, noting that the takeovers occurred under former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett. Ritz campaigned against state takeovers.

Indianapolis' Donnan Middle School and Arlington, Manual and Howe high schools were handed over to outside operators after six straight years of F grades for low test scores.

"This is the first year out of the gate," said board member Dan Elsener, president of Marian University. "If you take a strategic priority and don't fund it, it's dereliction of duty. Those neighborhoods and these children are vulnerable. We have a commitment to come through here. It's got to be clear, got to be swift, and it's got to be certain."

The takeover schools all received SIG grants to help with the turnaround efforts last year. Robinson said EdPower was notified in May 2012 that it would receive the money, which he said was critical to operating Arlington.

But state officials said the process has been delayed by two months this year, giving schools little notice of their funding before the school year begins.

Ritz said it was impossible to notify grant recipients any sooner.

"How do you make assurances to the schools prior to the process being formally implemented?" she said.

"We are well aware of the schools that are the lowest-performing and intend to support them to be sure they are going to be functional," she said. "If anyone has any doubt about that, you needn't. I plan to do that."


  • snake oil
    Wah, wah... "We need more money to run our schools because we can't do the work without more money." " It costs more to run these turnaround schools... Yeah, letting commercial or fake non-profits run these schools is so much better than any of the alternatives. Instead of trying to improve only the high schools, I'd apply any extra funds to improving the lower grade levels. I would look at instead using strict, achievable literacy standards for the first three grades otherwise no advancement. Little Johny should be able to orally read an elementary story to a teacher or an aide in order to advance to the next grade. He also should be able to add single digit numbers before second grade, print the alphabet legibly, and correctly spell the 100 most common English words. The second to third grade bump should be more of the same; simple subtraction skills, neater handwriting, bigger spelling vocabulary. One of the promises made by charter school proponents is that the operators could do better with the same or less funding. Edpower is asking for an extra $1.3 million for the 500 or so students at Arlington (they started the year with about 520 and dropped to 420 by the end of the year), so basically about an extra $2500 to $3200 per student. Most of these charter school operators are blowing smoke, they really do not have a plan or a budget to fix things.
  • Question
    How is it a for profit company gets to back out because they need the extra money and the state is trying to find them the money but the school corporation that is responsible and needs the money doesn't get the money it needs to do the same job. Man this state is @$$ backwards
  • Taveover Schools
    Well said, Betrn'u. Tony Bennett sold this state down the river.
  • Nice one Mitch,
    Oh ! Does this mean that privatization of schools and destroying the Indiana Public School System is not working? Mitch ! help us ! Sorry, forgot Mitch danced off to another hatchet job. You are next, Purdue.
  • Operators . . . worry about funding
    It is regrettable that education has become an "industry," as has health care. Both should be "services," not "industries." Very regrettable.
  • Ironic
    How well might the locals have done with an extra $1.3 million, none of which need be dedicated to a private company's bottom line?

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