I was outraged as a taxpayer, a grandfather, and someone concerned about improving educational opportunities for children in Indiana, when I saw that two online virtual charter schools defrauded the Indiana taxpayer of over $68 million. The scheme was designed to funnel public dollars into the pockets of the schools’ founders. This $68 million could send more than 10,000 Hoosier 4-year-olds to preschool, a program critical to establishing a pattern of success for young kids.
At a time when public school funding is barely keeping up with inflation and falls short of the money necessary to make a real difference in public education, I can’t believe the GOP-led Legislature was duped by these individuals and allowed millions of dollars to be outright stolen from an already inadequate budget.
And worse, it seems that individuals tied to these online charter schools pumped more than $100,000 in donations into the pockets of Statehouse Republicans. Our governor accepted $10,000 in campaign cash, and my local representatives Jim Merritt and Todd Huston took more than $3,000 in contributions between them from these individuals.
After nearly a decade of Republican control, this is the kind of thing that happens when some individuals believe the rules don’t apply to them. The whole situation looks like the shady, insider politics we shouldn’t accept from our representatives. In addition, efforts by state Democrats to improve oversight of charter school funding were blocked by the Republican-controlled Legislature.
For-profit school proposals need more vetting and oversight than the Republicans seem willing to support. It’s time to ask our representatives to change their approach, or we need to change these legislators.
Michael O. Ransom