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
“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
“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.”