INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A judge has ruled that the Indiana State Board of
Education improperly counted students at five troubled schools the state
turned over to private operators this year, costing an Indianapolis school
district millions of dollars in state money.
Marion Superior Court Judge Patrick McCarty said in Friday’s ruling that the
state board improperly counted about 1,500 Indianapolis Public Schools
students as students at four of the schools, even though those youngsters
had transferred to other schools before the start of the current school
"The State Board of Education’s decision is not in accordance with state
law,” he wrote in the ruling.
The Indianapolis Star reports the ruling means more than $6 million in state
aid was wrongly transferred from Indianapolis Public Schools to the private
operators of those four schools.
McCarty’s decision is another blow to outgoing State Schools Superintendent
Tony Bennett, who lost his re-election bid in November. Bennett had pushed
for the takeovers of the four Indianapolis schools and one in Gary.
IPS Superintendent Eugene White praised the judge’s decision in the lawsuit
filed by his district.
“This is a significant decision in favor of children and giving them the
financial support they deserve under state law,” White said Friday in a
statement. “... We encourage the state board to act quickly in restoring the
Bennett spokesman Dan Baker said in a statement that “we are currently
reviewing the ruling to determine our next steps.”
In May, the state board affirmed Bennett’s decision to take over the
schools, which resulted in the private operators receiving the highest level
of per pupil funding in the state — twice as much as some districts — for
the first six months the school year.
WIBC-FM reports that Bennett and the board said state law was on their side
because funding for the first half of a school year is based on student
enrollment counts taken during the previous school year.
But IPS protested that decision and sued, predicting that when student
counts were taken this school year, it would reveal that many students at
the district’s four schools taken over by the state had transferred to
another IPS school or some other school.
According to the counts taken in September 2012, enrollment at IPS’ Emma
Donnan Middle School and Arlington, Howe and Manuel high Schools dropped by
If the court’s decision is not appealed or overturned, several questions
remain as to how the money could be returned to IPS.
That process is also complicated by the fact that Glenda Ritz, the Democrat
who defeated Bennett in November, takes office in early January.
Ritz has strongly opposed the state’s takeover of the five schools. The
fifth takeover school is Gary’s Roosevelt College and Career Academy.
The takeovers were among Bennett’s signature accomplishments in office
because the Republican was the first to use a state law that allows the
state to remove schools from district control if they are rated an “F” for
six consecutive years.
Bennett successfully pushed for the schools to be run by private groups —
two out-of-state companies and an Indianapolis-based nonprofit.