Make your home page

House panel approves bill to take over Muncie Schools

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A powerful panel of House lawmakers approved a bill that calls for a state takeover of Muncie schools – a district facing an $18 million deficit along with the prospect of closing schools and laying off employees.

The move caught Muncie Community Schools leaders off guard.

“I just learned about it on Friday,” Dr. Steven Baule told I-Team 8 during an interview after the hearing.

“We were informed Friday morning,” said Debbie Feick, the president of the Muncie school board.

Both Baule and Feick testified that they did not think that a state takeover was necessary and that school district leaders could “right the ship” on their own.

“I do believe there is the ability to right the ship without a state takeover,” Baule said. “The board has done a good job of putting a plan in place.”

Baule argued before the committee that the district has taken steps to put a financial plan on places and has cut costs by privatizing school nurses and custodians.

But his testimony, along with Feick and other lawmakers were not heard before the committee took a vote to amend the bill that originally addressed a state takeover of Gary schools – which faces a $19 million shortfall.

When pressed about why testimony wasn’t heard before the vote, Rep. Tim Brown, R – Crawfordsville, said: “There had been discussion about the Muncie situation when the bill was presented. Rep. Errington – while not mentioning the Distressed unit – wanted to be a part of the Gary bill.”

But Rep. Sue Errington told I-Team 8 she didn’t learn of the change until last Thursday.

The bill would allow for a state panel to appoint an emergency manager for the district who could also assign both an academic and financial overseers.

The bill could be heard on House floor as early as Wednesday.

Baule told the committee he has a facilities report that he has yet to share with the board that could indicate what schools might need to be closed in order to make up for the shortfall.

Never miss another Facebook post from WISH-TV