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Holcomb signs controversial charter school funding bill

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An extensive piece of legislation that overhauls how charter schools are funded was signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb on Friday.

Senate Bill 391 shifts tax revenues from school corporations to charter schools when property values increase over a certain threshold.

It also requires school corporations to include charter schools in any referendum that would levy an additional tax.

“Charter schools are public schools just like our traditional public schools. Currently, they are not allowed by law to hold a referendum so this provides them an opportunity to share proportionally,” said State Senator Linda Rogers, a Republican from Elkhart.

Rogers co-authored the legislation.

Democrats say the legislation will discourage voters from participating in a referendum if they know some of the money is going to a charter school, which doesn’t have the same accountability as a traditional public school.

Another piece of the legislation keeps the state’s one-dollar law intact. That law requires schools to hand over property that is no longer being used to charter schools for one dollar.

State Rep. Ed Delaney, a Democrat from Indianapolis, said, “I’m looking at Citizens Gas, tell them they don’t need that building. They should give it away. How about WISH-TV? If they don’t need it, give it to someone. Terrible idea.”

Delaney said school corporations paid millions of dollars for these buildings and would lose equity by selling them for a dollar.

But Rogers says the bill is intended to help charter schools since they don’t have any way of raising their own funds.”The taxpayers of the community, their property taxes that go to schools are to provide public education.”

Delaney said charter schools already receive some state funding and federal grants. He believes the legislation unfairly targets the state’s largest school districts including Indianapolis, Ft. Wayne, Evansville, and Gary.

“I refer to it as the education industrial complex, there’s a whole movement with not-for-profits, political groups, local charter schools that work constantly to tell us how wonderful they are and how bad the traditional public schools are,” he said.

News 8 reached out to the Indiana School Boards Association for comment on this law but did not get a response.