Zionsville — Education and state budget cuts were the primary focus of Saturday’s Boone County Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast, attended by more than 80 persons, at Zionsville’s Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library.
Indiana senators Phil Boots (R- Dist. 23) and Jim Buck (R-Dist. 21 ) along with Rep. Cindy Noe (R-Dist. 87) discussed the option of Indiana school children attending charter schools, at the cost of the state.
This comes after Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has pushed for educational reform, urging lawmakers to reduce teacher benefits and allocate additional funds to the charter schools. The bill enforcing this is pending.
Noe said that as a legislature, the General Assembly must consider whether or not to fix public schools or put money toward charter schools.
“You think of these kinds of things,” Noe said. “I believe the difficulties that we are dealing with are not individual schools or teachers, but the institutionalized school system.”
Boots said the basis for funding are students on the free and reduced lunch program, whom he said are the “underachievers.”
“We need (our public schools) to focus on our high achievers, the people that will be our future instead of the ones that will not,” Boots said, realizing that his opinion would be controversial.
Buck said that charter schools have more students on the free and reduced lunch program, deeming it necessary to provide those students will adequate resources.
“We are trying to free up our public schools in many ways,” Buck said. “Charters are one of those ways. The senate is quite in favor of charters. The parents who send their kids to charters say they feel more empowered. This means they also empower their child.”
Buck said that when a student transitions to a charter school, testing scores increase by an average 20 percent. He said that any changes in funding will represent a mentality of the “money following the child.”
Lebanon Clerk-Treasurer and Boone County Republican Party Chairwoman Debbie Ottinger said with the public school system under fire, she would like to see funding go back into public schools, instead of new or improved charter schools.
“Have you thought of changing that funding and making (public schools) accountable for what they do with that funding?” Ottinger said.
Boots said that charter schools are technically public schools, and in reality they do not get funded for the first six months they exist.
“Charter schools serve a purpose,” Boots said. “They are created primarily because the kids are not being served in the (public school).”
A group has formed to create a charter school in Boone County. Organizers of the Central Indiana Academy have a preliminary proposal meeting with Ball State in August to serve as the school’s sponsor. If it passes the first meeting, the board will make a formal proposal in October and hear the final decision from Ball State in December. If approved, organizers plan open the academy in fall 2012.
See Tuesday’s Lebanon Reporter for more on this story.