May 10, 2017

Voucher Schools Lose Bid For Waivers Under New Law

Article origination IPBS-RJC
Jennifer McCormick leads the State Board of Education meeting May 10. - Eric Weddle/WFYI News

Jennifer McCormick leads the State Board of Education meeting May 10.

Eric Weddle/WFYI News

The Indiana State Board of Education denied waivers for three voucher-accepting private schools to speed up their eligibility to continue to accept voucher students.

A private school that receives D or F school grades for two or more consecutive years is no longer eligible to accept students who use vouchers to pay for tuition.

A law just signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb allows private schools to ask the State Board of Education for a waiver after one year if they can show academic improvements.

The board voted 5-3 in favor of approving the waivers for each school but state law requires six “yes” votes for action to be taken – so it failed.

Board member David Freitas says the legislation appears clear.

“So if you look at the law, they meet all the requirements of the law,” he says. “What basis would we deny it?”

But member Gordon Hendry cautioned the approval, noting that changes to the state’s A-F accountability scale last year reward a student’s academic growth. Those changes, he says, provide just a snapshot of the schools’ improvements without a second year to compare it.

The schools who requested the waiver each had three consecutive Ds: Central Christian Academy in Indianapolis, currently rated A; Turning Point School in Indianapolis, currently rated A; and Lutheran South Unity School in Fort Wayne, currently rated B.

John Elcesser of Indiana Non-Public Education Association emerged nearly an hour after the board’s vote to make public comment. The three schools seeking the waiver, Elcesser says, were part of the impetus for the legislation.

It’s unclear if the the schools will request the board to reconsider granting waivers but the statute is silent regarding resubmission request from a school that was previously denied.

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