June 5, 2019

Charter Schools Must Be 'Diligent' As Critics Increase, Former Mayor Bart Peterson Says

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Former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson stands in front of current Mayor Joe Hogsett. - FILE PHOTO: Ryan Delaney/WFYI

Former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson stands in front of current Mayor Joe Hogsett.


Former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson was honored Monday night by the education reform group he helped found in 2006, The Mind Trust.

Before the event, WFYI's Eric Weddle spoke with Peterson about his reasons for wanting Indiana to pass a charter school law in 2001 and how growing political winds against charter schools could impact Indiana. 

Click above to listen to the interview. 

The Mind Trust, a nonprofit organization, helped steer much of the changes within Indianapolis Public Schools during the past five years. Most notably, the creation of autonomous schools and collaboration with charter school organizers within the district.

The controversial effort to improve failing schools and give select school leaders executive control of their buildings was aided by state lawmakers who initially cared out a law specially for Indianapolis Public Schools.

Peterson, a Democrat, was the first mayor in the country to be given power by a state to authorize charter schools in 2001. Today Indianapolis remains the only mayor’s office actively approving the creation of charter schools.

Peterson was a founding board chairman of The Mind Trust for 12 years. He is now CEO of Christel House International, a charter school operator with schools in Indianapolis, and countries including India and Mexico.

Peterson called on those in the room to fight back against, what he called, a nationwide concerted effort to stop charter schools, a reference to charter moratoriums happening in California and criticisms from Democratic presidential candidates, such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
In Indianapolis two critics of The Mind Trust’s innovation schools won seats on the Indianapolis Public School Board of Commissioners in the November election.

"The charter sector needs to step up its game and work a lot harder on telling the truth and telling the story about the successes of charter schools,” Peterson said during Monday's event. 

Recently two separate studies on Indianapolis charter schools authorized by the mayor’s office found students in charters academically outperform their peers in the city's traditional public schools.

In the past year, multiple Indianapolis charter schools have closed or announced impending closure to various reasons, including low enrollment and lack of funding. 

There are 52 charter schools in Marion County, according to state data for the 2018-19 school year.

The Mind Trust has supported the launch of 24 schools since 2012. Five more schools are expected to open for the 2019-20 school year.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.

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