The State Board of Education is recommending crucial changes for virtual charter school regulations in Indiana, after members debated a key piece of the proposal at its December meeting.
A small committee of state board members started studying virtual school policies and practices earlier this year. In October, they pitched a three-pronged series of changes for the board to recommend lawmakers consider in 2019.
One part of the proposal focuses on authorizing powers, and suggested allowing only one entity in the state to authorize virtual charter schools.
Gordon Hendry chaired the subcommittee on virtual schools, and says a single virtual school authorizer for the whole state is a bold, much-needed measure.
“It would be most beneficial to the students who are attending virtual charters that it be centralized in one entity that can really drill down on accountability,” he says. “Right now I just don’t think it’s there.”
But some members, like vice-chair B.J. Watts, worry a one-authorizer system could limit innovation for other virtual schools.
“It’s been my experience that when we paint with a really broad brush on this board, that’s when we have trouble,” he says.
After debating the single authorizer issue - and eventually taking it out - the board approved the recommendations. The proposed regulations still include language about a uniform "type" of entity to approve virtual charter schools, enrollment/growth caps, and mandatory on-boarding for students enrolled in virtual schools.
Now it’s up to lawmakers to decide which changes they want put into law – or not.
The 2019 legislative session begins Jan. 3.