Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Update: Judge Orders Indianapolis Mayor To Stand Down Until Monday Hearing On Project School's Fate

    Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

    Parents and students arrived at last week's emergency Project School board meetings chanting, 'Save our school!'

    A Marion Superior Court judge has blocked Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard from shutting down a charter school he feels should be closed for poor academic performance — at least for now.

    The court’s temporary restraining order came roughly an hour after Ballard publicly announced his final decision to immediately revoke The Indianapolis Project School’s charter.

    The judge’s order bars Ballard’s office from “any and all activities… or public statements that would have the effect of prohibiting [the school] from beginning classes on August 6,” which Project School leaders read as an opening allowing them to find a new sponsor for their charter.

    “We anticipate that we’ll be given the opportunity to remain a school until we can apply for a charter from a different authorizer,” Daniel Baron, the school’s board president, told StateImpact in an interview Tuesday. “That would be our next step to be authorized for the following year.”

    A spokesperson for the mayor’s office told StateImpact the temporary restraining order prevents him from commenting on the matter.

    We wrote earlier today about how the dispute highlights a conflict between the values of parental choice and accountability for poor test scores, largely because the school’s enrollment has grown by more than 60 percent despite test scores well below the state average. It also demonstrates how charter schools across Indiana are different from traditional public schools.

    As we’ve written, Project School parents and students have rallied to the school’s defense, turning out in force at a recent rally and forming a Facebook group protesting Ballard’s decision.

    In a somewhat ironic twist, Baron says the judge will allow the school to staff a table at an enrollment fair Thursday — a fair the mayor’s office initially set up to help students displaced by the school’s closure.

    Baron says The Project School did not get a fair hearing from officials in Ballard’s office.

    But the dispute is not over yet. The judge has called a hearing on Monday, July 30, at which arguments will be heard on The Project School’s motion that would block Ballard’s office from acting for the rest of the year.

    Indiana Public Charter Schools Association president Russ Simnick said charter school sponsors are generally given broad authority under state law to hold schools accountable to high academic standards. Speaking generally about the state’s laws, Simnick told StateImpact a charter school authorizer can shut down a school at any point if it becomes clear it has not lived up to the mission as outlined in its charter.

    “That’s the charter model throughout the nation,” he says. “We’ll vest some power into some entities in order to award charters with the promise that they will open up good schools, that they will hold these schools accountable, and close them if they’re not performing.”

    (Read the temporary restraining order.)


    About StateImpact

    StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
    Learn More »