Indiana’s Failing Schools
What happens to salvage a failing school district? Gary, Indiana is one example. Because of its $100 million debt, it was taken over by the state. Right on its heels is example #2: Muncie, Indiana, which was labeled “financially impaired” by the state after misspending a $10 million bond–irreversibly.
In response, Indiana House Bill 1315 aims to monitor schools in danger of falling into financial distress. If a school sets off the bill’s indicators of financial failure, the Distressed Unit Appeals Board votes on whether the state should take over the district. If the vote is in favor of such a takeover, this bill strips the district’s school board of many of its powers, following Muncie and Gary as models. These boards forfeit their power to fire and hire the superintendent and are reduced to meeting only twice per year. The bill even provides that a new school board can be appointed by the state.
To facilitate the appointment of this new board, Indiana House Bill 1315 allows universities to fill in where elected school boards have lost power. This July, Ball State University took over Muncie Community Schools. A university takeover of a public-school district has happened only once before in this country with Boston University (BU) assuming responsibility of the schools of nearby Chelsea, MA. But how did this take-over fair?