August 8, 2019

Democrats Press For Study On Risks, Rewards For Virtual Charter Schools

Original story from   IPBS-RJC

Article origination IPBS-RJC
Indiana Statehouse. - Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Indiana Statehouse.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Democrats at the Statehouse want legislative leaders to take a closer look at virtual charter schools in Indiana as two scandal-ridden schools prepare to close. 

Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) is frustrated by the state of virtual learning in Indiana, especially because of the problems facing the two closing virtual charter schools, Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy. 

Now he and other House Democrats are asking legislative leaders to study the risks and rewards of virtual schools as part of lawmakers’ summer study committees. 

DeLaney says it’s especially crucial since lawmakers have allocated millions of dollars in state funding to the schools. Early findings of a state audit recently revealed the schools owe the state more than $40 million in tuition support.

“The money was lost or wasted and it’s our responsibility to figure out how, and to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” he says. 

In a letter, he and other Education Committee Democrats – including Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary), Rep. Sheila Klinker (D-Lafayette), and Terre Haute teacher Rep. Tonya Pfaff – urged House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) to include the issue at an education-focused study committee meeting later this month. 

When asked for comment on the letter requesting further study of the issue this summer, Education Committee Chair Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) said in a statement, schools need time to adapt to the handful of State Board of Education recommendations made into policy by the General Assembly during the 2019 legislative session.

“This new law addresses many of the issues these schools faced and strengthens accountability measures to ensure all virtual schools are held to a high standard. Now we must give schools the opportunity to adjust to these requirements,” he said via email.

The education summer study committee’s Aug. 22 agenda so far focuses on examining career counseling needs and resources and career navigation funding for schools.

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