Members of the
Duneland Schools community are disappointed by the passage of an Indiana
House of Representatives bill that was amended in the Senate Monday to allow
public school boards to share funds from supplemental property tax referenda
with charter schools in their districts.
Proponents of the
provision say a supplemental property tax referendum could stand a better
chance in a community where parents of local charter school students feel
they have skin in the game when it comes time to vote. Those against the
provision say it’s a slippery slope to legislators mandating the sharing of
supplemental funds--funds which public schools only need following a pattern
of the Legislature diverting funding from public to private education.
manifested Monday as Amendment #6 to HB 1065, a vehicle bill proposing
adjustments to a wide array of tax matters. HB 1065 was returned to the
House with eight amendments Wednesday after it passed the Senate 31-19
Tuesday. The senate tied 25-25 when it voted on Amendment #6 Monday, leaving
Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch to break the tie in favor.
disappointed in our local legislators who supported this bill and voted for
it without contacting their local school districts to find out what its
impact would be,” said Duneland School Board President Brandon Kroft. Kroft
said he was not aware of any attempts by local legislators to discuss HB
1065’s potential impact with Duneland Schools.
state representatives voted along party lines when HB 1065 passed third
reading in the House on Jan. 30, long before Amendment #6 was added.
Democrats Chuck Moseley (D-Portage) and Pat Boy (D-Michigan City) opposed
it, and Republican Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) voted for it.
State Senator Karen
Tallian (D-Ogden Dunes) voted for Amendment #6 Monday, but against the bill
as a whole on Tuesday. Tallian now says her Monday vote, which could have
defeated the amendment had it swung the other way, was a mistake.
““I made a mistake.
For 15 sessions in the General Assembly, I have taken pride in studying and
understanding the implications and impact of legislation that comes across
my desk, especially on the most controversial issues. This time, I missed,”
Tallian said in a statement posted to the Indiana Senate Democrats website
and reshared on her official Facebook page yesterday.
said Amendment #6 came to the senators for the first time Monday in a
“six-inch stack of paper that included about 50 bills with multiple
amendments”, and she made her vote based on discussion on the Senate floor.
“I heard what I believed to be a harmless measure providing that school
boards may, but are not required [emphasis from source], to
give some portion of referenda funds to a charter,” the statement reads.
“In the 24 hours
since this vote, I have heard from my constituents and public education
supporters about the depth of their opposition to this amendment and their
reasons why. Had I realized all of this, I would have voted no,” Tallian
said in the statement. “I have always opposed the expansion of charter and
voucher schools. I have stood with teachers and avidly supported public
education for 15 years. I will continue to do that.”
vote comes after she just proposed an amendment to education vehicle bill HB
1066, that was subsequently approved 42-8. Tallian’s amendment to HB 1066
was to hold virtual schools to the same standard of anti-nepotism that
public schools are held to, following a recent scandal where the State Board
of Accounts called on two Indiana virtual schools to reimburse the State for
approximately $86 million in misspent state funds. In its current version,
HB 1065 would prohibit public schools from sharing referendum funds with
Kroft further said
the School Board shares in concerns that Amendment #6 to HB 1065 is step one
toward making the sharing of referendum funds mandatory, and that
legislators should allow charter schools to seek their own referenda if
charter school funding is a true concern. Additional Duneland School Board
members Alayna Lightfoot Pol and John Marshall were not available for
comment at deadline today.
justifiably outraged by the language that was stuck into HB 1065,” said
Chesterton High School History teacher and Chairman of Negotiations for the
Duneland Teacher’s Association, Bob DeRuntz.
“Our community did
not pass our local referendum to have that money taken away and given to the
Discovery Charter School,” DeRuntz said. “Our community passed the
referendum to support the Duneland Schools because too much of our public
tax dollars are already being diverted from public education to pay for
private, charter, and virtual school vouchers.”
Prior to 2008,
local property taxes supported public school general funds by default. State
statute regarding school funding changed that year when the Indiana
Legislature ruled that public school general funds would be funded
exclusively from state tuition support on a per student basis. When the
funding formula changed, statute was also changed to allow schools to
collect a supplemental property tax rate of up to 22 cents per $100 of
assessed valuation (AV) upon the passage of a referendum. Such referenda
must be renewed every seven years.
first sought a referendum in 2012, and it passed by a slim margin, but
Duneland voters overwhelmingly reupped the referendum in the 2019 primary
election. The supplemental tax costs the average Duneland homeowner about
$16 a month, based on the average net AV of homes in Duneland.
Superintendent Dr. Chip Pettit, for his part, said Duneland wouldn’t share
its referendum funds if the provision becomes law. “I can’t think of any
reason why we would ever ask our community to support a referendum, and then
turn around and give the money to a charter school. That’s a bait and
switch,” he said.