Sunday, June 07, 2015

State Budget Included Another Give-Away To Charter Schools

Score another one for the education profiteers at the expense of our traditional, publicly-funded schools. The public learns weeks after Gov. Mike Pence signed into law a new state budget that included a $50 million, low-interest loan program for charter schools only. This is particularly concerning when you consider the fact that Indiana has provided loans to charter schools in the past that was never repaid. In 2013, the state forgave more than $90 million the state loaned to charter schools.

Charter schools are public schools only in the sense they rely on taxpayer funding for their operation; otherwise, they are operated by private and non-profit corporations whose backers contribute heavily to elected officials. That's why Gov. Pence, state lawmakers and even school board members of our traditional schools like these folks so well. Their backers are among the biggest campaign contributors to their campaigns. Traditional public schools can't make campaign contributions.

According to a story by the Indianapolis Star's Tony Cook and Kris Turner, the last-minute inclusion of the $50 million low-interest loan program in the state budget to appease Gov. Pence, who had originally sought with the support of House Speaker Brian Bosma a new grant program of $1,500 per child that would have only benefited charter schools to help pay for construction and other capital projects. The grant program was scaled back to $500 per child, and the $50 million grant program was thrown in as a bonus. The Star report says $170 million that would have otherwise gone to public schools will instead be set aside for the grant and loan programs for charter schools.

There was never any public testimony or input on the $50 million loan program included in the state budget. Sen. Luke Kenley, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is concerned about how the charter schools will repay these loans given the amount of debt they are already carrying. He doesn't think they have the ability to repay the loans, and he says Pence and Bosma plan to forgive the loans just like they did the past loans in 2013, an assertion The Star notes that neither Pence nor Bosma denied.

Indiana's experiment with charter schools has proven that, on the whole, they are no better than traditional public schools. The only explanation for the insistence by our elected officials that we continue to pour more and more money into charter schools is the large campaign contributions they receive in consideration of their support of charter schools. So in Indianapolis, IPS schools will see their state share of education dollars slashed by tens of millions of dollars so more money can be plowed into charter schools, many of which are performing very poorly, simply because the people who profit from the charter school industry donate heavily to the politicians' campaigns.

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