INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Senate has approved Republican Gov. Mitch
Daniels’ proposal aimed at expanding charter schools, marking the first
piece of the governor’s sweeping education agenda to clear both the House
The Republican-led Senate voted 29-20 for the bill, which would allow more
entities to authorize charter schools. The bill allows charter schools to
cheaply buy unused buildings owned by traditional school corporations and
increases accountability rules for charters, which are public schools free
of many state regulations.
Supporters said more charter schools would mean more options for Indiana
parents looking for the best education for their children.
“We have a responsibility to help those parents help themselves,” said Sen.
Brandt Hershman, R-Lafayette. “What are we afraid of, offering parents that
Seven Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the proposal. Opponents
say charter schools siphon money away from traditional public schools.
“There’s only so much money in the pie,” said Sen. Vaneta Becker,
R-Evansville. “When you add unlimited charter schools to that equation, you
get less money for the rest of the schools.”
Sen. Tim Skinner, D-Terre Haute, said the bill is part of a larger attack on
traditional education by Daniels and Republican State Superintendent Tony
Bennett. He said teacher morale is low across the state as the GOP pushes an
aggressive education agenda, which includes the expansion of charter
“We have done irreparable damage, in my opinion, to our public schools,”
Supporters point out that charter schools get support from both Democrats
and Republicans. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who serves under
Democratic President Barack Obama, is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting
with Daniels Friday at an Indianapolis charter school.
Bennett said the state has 62 charter schools serving 23,000 students — but
that the state needs more charters because demand far exceeds capacity.
“Right now, thousands of Hoosier children sit on charter school waiting
lists,” Bennett said.
The bill previously had cleared the GOP-ruled House on a 59-37 vote. The
Senate made several changes to the House proposal, so the legislation will
return to the House for consideration of the latest version.
Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said the Senate tamed the House version of the
proposal, which she described as “a charter school bill gone wild.”
The Senate version of the bill kept House provisions that would allow a new
state board and some private colleges to create charter schools in addition
to the current authorizers of school districts, public four-year colleges
and the mayor of Indianapolis. But the Senate removed a part of the House
bill that would have allowed mayors of smaller cities to create charters.
And it removed a provision that would have forced traditional schools to
share transportation funding with charters after opponents argued it would
be too much of a burden on traditional public schools struggling with budget
House Speaker Brian Bosma, a Republican from Indianapolis who is the House
sponsor of the bill, said he hasn’t decided whether to simply accept the
Senate changes or continue to work on a compromise. But he said he was
pleased the bill cleared the Senate and that the major parts of the plan
The bill is the first piece of Daniels’ education agenda to clear both the
House and Senate. Daniels’ other education proposals would:
— Create the nation’s most expansive voucher program directing taxpayer
money to private schools. The bill has cleared the House and is scheduled
for a Senate committee vote Wednesday.
— Restrict teacher collective bargaining. That bill has cleared the Senate
and is pending in the House.
— Implement merit pay for teachers by requiring student achievement to
account for part of teacher evaluations. That bill has passed the Senate and
is scheduled for a House committee vote Wednesday.