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Legislative Commitee Hears School Takeover Testimony

The quarreling over the state takeover of four Indianapolis Public Schools has gone before a legislative study committee.

Eugene White

Photo: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana

Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent Eugene White says he still plans to compete for students with takeover companies slated to run several IPS schools, starting in the fall.

IPS Superintendent Eugene White told legislators he has no interest in obstructing the transition to outside school operators next fall. But he says IPS will exercise its right to compete for students.   And he again complained the state seized the four schools despite improving scores and other extenuating circumstances.

“But the catch was, they forgot that students have a right to choose their school,” White says. “And so when they were going to take over these IPS schools, I also told them that we‘re going to compete for the students, because you want competition? We‘re going to be able to [have] competition.”

He says IPS ranks as the state‘s poorest school district economically. State law gives the state the option of seizing control of schools which don‘t show progress for six years. State superintendent Tony Bennett quotes U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, saying consistently poor performance requires dramatic action. Bennett concedes the transition year has been rocky, but maintains it’s necessary.

“Are there ways to enhance, improve, address collaboration and communications? Yes. But I still believe that handing over the keys to a turnaround school operator eight weeks before school starts — I‘m still not convinced that‘s the right approach,” Bennett says.

Bennett says the state needs to focus its most intensive effort on the schools which are at neither the top nor the bottom of the performance rankings. He says the state‘s goal is to give schools the help they need before the acrimony of a takeover. The Indiana Department of Education has accused IPS of moving or swapping out equipment from the four takeover schools and creating bureaucratic obstacles for the operators and for teachers who choose to remain at those schools.

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