House Approves Controversial School Management Bill

Feb 1, 2018

House lawmakers are moving forward with a controversial school financial management bill. Lawmakers debated HB 1315 for nearly two hours Thursday before passing it, and some members, including Rep. Earl Harris (D-East Chicago), say they’re concerned the legislation takes too much power away from the locally elected school boards of struggling schools.

“I’m very much uncomfortable with us taking away the will of the voters in terms of the school board. The school board is voted in,” Harris says.

The bill would weaken the role of elected school boards at financially struggling districts, like in Gary. It would also allow those districts to fire some teachers mid-year to address budget problems.

Another piece of the bill would allow Ball State University to take control of Muncie Community Schools.

READ MORE: First Boston, Now Muncie? Lessons From A University-School Collaboration

A committee would also be charged with creating a set of financial indicators as part of the legislation, and schools could be added to a watchlist based on those factors. If a school superintendent’s corporation is on the watch list for four consecutive years, the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents would decide if any disciplinary action should be taken.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said the state would have the power to revoke the license of a superintendent whose corporation is on a watchlist for four consecutive years. That is incorrect. An amendment to the bill means a school superintendent whose corporation is on the watch list for four consecutive years would be subject to evaluation for any disciplinary action by the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents.