I-Team 8

Community groups call on Marion County to stop approving charter schools

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indianapolis Public Schools Community Coalition, Baptist Minister’s Alliance and the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis are demanding Marion County to stop approving charter schools. This comes after the HIM by HER Foundation’s Charter School announced their closing on Jan. 20.

 “I call it the hamburger joint theory,” explains Dr.Jim Scheurich, IPS Community Coalition President. “You just opened a hamburger joint here [and] there’s no control over where they open, you know, and then they go out and do PR and sell and get some parents to come. And there’s no accountability when they fail.”

Scheurich says less than 5% of charter school kids pass both their English and Math exams.

“The Choice schools, they sold this reform based on we would see amazing increases in academic achievement, particularly around children of color. This has not happened,” Scheurich said.

I-Team 8 reached out to the Indiana Charter School Network for comment. A spokesperson gave this statement:

“Charter schools are highly accountable public schools. If a charter school does not meet financial, governance or academic standards, it may close. While a hardship for families directly affected by a closure, especially one in the middle of the school year, closures are a part of charter school accountability to their authorizers and the public. They will perform – and perform well – or they will not be able to continue serving families and students.

While charter schools are tuition-free public schools open to all, charter schools do not receive equitable financial support. Charter school students receive $0 in local funding, while Indianapolis Public Schools receive more than $8,800 per student in local funding. The students attending Him by HER, as well as those attending every other public charter school, deserve to receive equitable funding, and this difference in support may be a strong contributing factor in this instance.

In Indianapolis as elsewhere, charter schools serve a diverse and economically disadvantaged student population. Yet academically, they out-perform IPS schools by an astounding margin. A Stanford University study found that students attending Indianapolis public charter schools received the equivalent of 64 additional days of learning in English Language Arts compared to non-charter IPS students, and an astounding 116 additional days of learning in math. Those results are even stronger for Black and Hispanic students attending Indianapolis charter schools.

We wish the Him by HER families did not have to face this situation. But shifting funding to support all public-school students would be a far better reaction to this school closure than a call to limit families’ options for their children. Public charter school students deserve parity in funding with students at district-run schools. Charter schools have done more with less for a long time now and, while regrettable, the closure of a public charter school is proof of their accountability to families, to students, to their authorizers, and to the public at-large.”

Scheurich says Indianapolis, specifically, needs to return to “neighborhood community oriented schools,” where kids will stay within their neighborhood from Pre-K through high school.

“Right in the middle of the year, [the HIM by HER Charter School kids] lose the school and then they’ve got to go scrambling to find another school,” Scheurich said.

I-Team 8 reached out to IPS Schools and Ball State University, who Scheurich says authorized the HIM by HER Charter School, as well as Indiana Representative John Bartlett, who is on the school’s governing board, all of which did not respond or declined to comment.

A spokesperson for the Indianapolis Office of Education Innovation, however, gave I-Team 8 this statement:

“Like all charter school authorizers, we have a responsibility under state law to review charter school proposals. OEI’s review process considers many factors, including an applicant’s prior education experience. The process also includes reviewing plans for community engagement. We value the community feedback we receive on applications during the process and at public meetings. We work closely with our community partners, such as Indianapolis Public Schools, when applications concern prospective innovation agreements. Additionally, all mayor-sponsored charter schools comply with the State Board of Accounts requirement to receive an annual audit by an independent evaluator. Those audits are publicly available in the SBOA database.”

Scheurich says the community groups are not asking for all charter schools to close down right now, but believe it’s important to stop approving future ones.