Chesterton Tribune



Cap on funds for charter schools for dropouts could slow adult education

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - New limits on the amount of state money that charter schools targeting dropouts can receive could slow the growth of a program supporters say has been wildly successful in a state where more than 400,000 adults lack high school diplomas.

Lawmakers this year agreed to provide up to $25 million in the state budget to cover the cost of the existing dropout charter schools and those about to be launched at the same per-pupil funding rate they received before. But they won’t allow the dropout charters to tap money reserved for K-12 funding, The Indianapolis Star reported .

"Those schools, when they were first implemented as charter schools, they are basically for adults,” said Luke Kenley, the Senate Appropriations chairman. “There is no provision in Indiana law that says adults are entitled to go to regular school and be entitled to funding under the regular funding formula.”

Kenley said lawmakers like what they’ve seen from dropout recovery schools such as the Excel centers run by Goodwill Industries and the Christel House DORS Academy. The question, he said, is how best to fund them. He said lawmakers are concerned that the demand for the programs creates a risk that expanding dropout schools could become a big expense for the state in the future.

“The early reports are that this is a very successful activity, and it might be important to continue funding for that,” he said. “But we also decided we did not think it was appropriate to fund it through the (K-12) school funding formula.

“This is going to be a huge funding issue,” he added.

After Goodwill’s first Excel Center opened for 300 students in 2010, the waiting list had 2,000 more dropouts clamoring for a chance to finish school. There are now four Excel centers in Indianapolis and one in Anderson. Next year, Excel will open four more schools, one each in Indianapolis, Lafayette, Kokomo and Richmond.

The centers have helped about 350 dropouts earn diplomas since 2010, and about 75 percent of those 350 now have full-time jobs. Of those not yet working, some went onto college.

“What we did was find a creative solution to a massive problem,” said Scott Bess, chief operating officer of Goodwill’s Education Initiatives.

Ada Lopez is one of those graduates.

A decade after dropping out, Lopez, 28, received a flier from an Excel center about five minutes from her house last fall. She enrolled and will graduate June 27 with 20 college credits and two industry certifications.

“They gave me the skills and the tools I needed,” Lopez said. “I knew I had more potential and could do more than what I was doing before.”

Her plan now is to enroll at IUPUI and get a bachelor’s degree in social work and eventually a master’s degree.

“I’d like to work with children who need help, like those from abused homes,” she said. “If I change even one life, I would be happy.”



Posted 6/10/2013