Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Increasing School Choice and Charter School Accommodation - 2014 Indiana Senate Bill 0205

04 February 2014

A bill that would allow non-utilized public buildings to be leased to charter schools for a nominal fee is making its way through the Indiana Senate. Senators Banks, Kruse, and Yoder have introduced the bill that will make buildings available to charter schools that would otherwise remain unoccupied and result in a financial burden on the government agency owner through maintenance and repairs.

Here is the Synopsis of the bill:
Charter schools. Requires an authorizer to submit an annual report of certain information to the state board and the public. Prohibits an authorizer from requiring a charter school authorized by the authorizer to enter into a commercial contract with the authorizer. Limits the length of a charter agreement to not more than seven years. Requires municipal corporations and the Indiana department of administration to notify the department of education of vacant or unused buildings that are suitable for classroom use so that the buildings are included in an annual list of buildings available for sale or lease by charter schools. Requires the state board to establish a process to be used if more than one charter school applies to purchase or lease the same vacant or unused public building.

For the most part this bill provides an expansion from only school corporations to include all municipal corporations as those entities who may enter into contracts to lease a building suitable for classroom use. The bill also provides a conflict of interest section and the following section that addresses competing requests for building usage;
The state board shall establish a process to use if more than one (1) charter school sends a letter of intent under subsection (i) to purchase or lease the same vacant or unused building. The state board shall assign weighted values to each charter school's:
(1) academic quality;
(2) financial health;
(3) community impact; and
(4) program design;
to evaluate the competing charter schools. If two (2) or more competing charter schools each receive the same total score on the evaluation, the state board shall conduct a random drawing at a public meeting to determine which charter school may purchase or lease the vacant or unused building.

This proposition, if adopted into law, will give to more parents and students the opportunity to receive the education that meets the needs of the children. Not only will greater choice be achieved but it will be done so at a lower cost. It will also likely result in more 25mph school zones but you can just join me in riding a bicycle around and not be annoyed by having to reduce driving speed.

This bill was read for the second time in the Senate as amended.

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