Ballard is deeply concerned about the state of education in our city. [Ballard] Rule Number 3 emphasizes an educational level of achievement for our children which reflects the priority of its citizens. Ballard criticizes Peterson's focus on charter schools at the expense of IPS and the township schools. He supports a public-nonprofit partnership to support those schools, not seek to replace them.I pick up my Sunday Star this morning and read that Ballard has already decided to pick up where Peterson left off on charter schools. The Star's Andy Gammil writes:
The mayor's charter school board appears poised to endorse one final initiative under Mayor Bart Peterson, who for five years has been the only mayor in the country with the power to open the unusual public schools.
Mayor-elect Greg Ballard met with charter school leaders and pledged his support. But the charter system was launched under Peterson, so the change leaves questions, such as who will run his charter school office, how new schools will be approved and the fate of the Indianapolis Project School, which is up for approval this month . . .
Ballard, a Republican, has signaled he will not make any drastic changes when it comes to charter schools.
In a brief e-mail Friday, Ballard said that charter schools are a key part of his transition efforts and that he hopes to expand upon the foundation of charter schools already in place.
"Charter schools are a high-quality alternative to the present public school system," he said. "Education improves and accountability increases when parents are given a choice."
How could Ballard reverse his position so quickly on charter schools? I'll tell you. It's the same thing I've been saying since he announced members of his transition team who already convinced him he must abandon his support for repealing the property tax as he promised during the campaign. It's packed with lawyers and lobbyists who have a vested interest in protecting the status quo. Some of those team members represent these charter schools and are more interested in protecting the steady flow of legal and consulting fees fromtheir existence than fulfilling Ballard's pledge to improve IPS and the township schools. I don't see how you turn IPS or any of the township schools around if you continue to drain off good students and money for the charter schools, which always seem to have ties to politically-connected folks.
And what about Ballard's pledge to reduce spending by 10%? A whole new bureaucracy has been created within the Mayor's office to oversee Indianapolis' charter schools under Peterson's tenure, creating competing educational authorities in the city. "Peterson's office oversees 16 charter schools, although it has granted a few more charters than that during the years," Gammill writes. He adds, "It shut down one of its schools, the Flanner House Higher Learning Center, in 2005 after it was found to have falsified enrollment records." Flanner House received more than $700,000 in state school funds than it should have because it overstated its enrollment. The Star's Kim Hooper wrote about the problem the charter schools posed to IPS a few years back:
The drain on IPS is already apparent. More students attend the charter schools than attend 67 of the state’s 293 traditional school districts, including the tiny Eminence and Southwestern districts in the metro area. All five mayor-sponsored charters are within IPS’ boundaries. And more than three-quarters of charter students live within the IPS district. At a sixth local charter, the Irvington Community School, which was approved by Ball State University, just 12 of 129 students live outside IPS attendance boundaries. The result: Schools like IPS’ School 103, which saw 39 students move to a new charter two miles away this year, are facing the prospect that, if charters continue unchecked, they might have to close. ”I’ve got to have a plan to keep my school open,” said Principal Toni Trice, who lost three teachers to other district schools due to declining enrollment. She also stands to lose $80,000 in federal funds because of the decline, and that will cost her a fourth teacher.Indeed, IPS has just recently announced the closing of eight more schools. And the jury is still out on whether charter schools are doing any better educating children than the public school systems. It seems to depend on who is preparing the statistics. As Gammill's story points out, White has asked for a moratorium on the opening of new charter schools in Indianapolis. After reading this morning's article, I suspect White is wondering if he hadn't just lost his new-found friend, Mayor-elect Greg Ballard.