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Will More Charter School Funding Prevent Failures?

Senate Bill 169 would move the IREAD-3 test from third to second grade.

Should Indiana charter schools receive an additional $1,500 per student? It depends who you ask.

Skeptics of increasing taxpayer support to help charter schools pay for buildings and transportation are pointing to new examples of academic failure.

This week Ball State chose not to renew the charters for two Indianapolis schools — Fall Creek Academy and University Heights Preparatory Academy.

Both, the university said, suffer from “chronic underperformance.”

”Would money have helped that? Yes, maybe,” Charlie Schlegel, superintendent of the schools Ball State is closing says.

Unlike traditional public schools, charters do not get property taxes to pay for transportation or buildings.

And that, Schlegel says, leads to less money for the classroom.

But the schools’ failures just can’t be blamed on a lack of funding.

He says the schools struggled to find the right teachers and staff to support students that needed a lot of help.

“It doesn’t matter, for instance, what you can pay someone, if the job is so difficult and they are not ready for it. Then money is not going to make that same difference,” he says.

Last year, Fall Creek got its third consecutive F, and University Heights got its third consecutive D in the state’s A-to-F school grading system.

Schlegel said students were showing improvements, but he just needed more time.

“We asked them for an extension of our current charter,” he says. “We felt like if they were to afford us two years we would be able to prove the impact. We’d have data to support the impact we believe we are making this year.”

Instead, the schools will close June 12.

Gov. Mike Pence is asking lawmakers to include an additional $41 million for charter schools in the next budget. During a visit to Thursday to Manual High School in Indianapolis, Pence said he is confident in the oversight of charters.

“I don’t think there is any question that charter schools in Indiana are making a difference in the lives of our kids,” Pence says. “As in any endeavor, there is success and failure. And I think it is important that we have held public charter schools accountable for their performance.”

Fall Creek Academy and University Heights are holding meetings for parents to explain the closures and help them find a new school.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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