Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Lawmakers Consider Loan Forgiveness For Shuttered Ball State Charters

    Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

    Charter School of the Dunes students listen to a math lesson.

    The Associated Press reports Indiana lawmakers might forgive $12 million in loans to struggling charter schools no longer authorized by Ball State:

    The Indiana Department of Education loaned roughly $12.9 million to eight charter schools to help with startup costs, and they still owe $12 million to the state, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. Seven whose charters were revoked by Ball State University in January would be absolved of payments, along with another school which did not seek to renew its charter.

    “Why did they get their charter revoked?” asked Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville. “If they were (educating students) and it was a good faith effort and they were in good standing at that time, maybe it should be paid for them.”

    The Senate has budgeted roughly $80 million to repay loans taken out by a range of charter schools, many of them performing well by state standards. The goal of the loan program was to put charter schools on equal footing with public schools. Because charter schools operate on a calendar year — unlike the state budget — each one started out having to find six months’ worth of operational money, which the state answered with loans, Kenley said Monday.

    “So what we’re doing is funding what we should have funded when we first started this exercise,” he said. But he added that fiscal analysts are working fast to determine if the revoked charters should share in that benefit.

    Because charter schools are public schools, the loans come from the same fund that helps traditional school corporations. Advocates argue if school districts have to pay back the state, so should charters.

    At least one of the schools facing closure, Charter School of the Dunes in Gary, has found a new sponsor — Calumet College. The others are appealing their charter revocation or seeking another authorizer.

    To one commenter on the “Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education” Facebook page, the loan forgiveness plan sounds like a “bailout.” Do you agree with her? Or is Kenley right in asking for assistance for a school that made “a good faith effort”? Let us know in the comments.


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