2013 Indiana General Assembly

State budget contains offer to settle Gary schools lawsuit

2013-05-06T00:00:00Z 2013-05-06T14:53:03Z State budget contains offer to settle Gary schools lawsuitDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
May 06, 2013 12:00 am  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | The state budget approved April 27 by the Indiana General Assembly contains, as expected, appropriations for every state agency to carry out its work over the next two years.

Also included in the 279-page budget in House Bill 1001 are dozens of other sections setting state policy, adding new regulations, correcting previously approved legislation and, in at least one instance, trying to resolve a lawsuit.

Gary Community School Corp. sued the State Board of Education last year, challenging the estimated student count used to distribute funding to Roosevelt College and Career Academy, currently operated by EdisonLearning, Inc. on a turnaround basis.

A Marion County judge ruled in December the Indiana Department of Education, under Republican former Superintendent Tony Bennett, improperly paid Edison for the 2012-13 school year using Roosevelt's 2011-12 student count -- which was higher than the current number of students attending Roosevelt.

The judge ordered the state repay Gary Community School Corp. approximately $2 million wrongly taken from its funding and given to the turnaround operator.

Indianapolis Public Schools were awarded some $6 million for excessive deductions made by the state from their funding and given to four Indianapolis turnaround school operators.

The state has indicated it plans to appeal the ruling.

But state Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, isn't waiting for the court to act.

Seeking to cut out the middleman and save some money, Kenley inserted a settlement offer in the state budget: If Gary and Indianapolis schools agree to drop their claims against the state and the turnaround operators, the State Board of Education is immediately authorized to give them $7.4 million, about 90 percent of the money awarded in the lawsuit.

A spokeswoman for Gary Community School Corp. did not return a request for comment on whether it plans to take the deal.

Democrat Glenda Ritz, the current state superintendent of public instruction, believes Gary and Indianapolis schools should get all the money they were shorted.

"In both the House and Senate budget committees, Superintendent Ritz requested that our public schools be made whole," said Daniel Altman, Ritz's spokesman. "She was disappointed to see that the Legislature funded expanded school choice but failed to fully fund obligations to public schools that an independent court ordered.

Republican Gov. Mike Pence has yet to sign the budget into law though he's not expected to veto the $30 billion spending plan that also contains $1.1 billion in tax cuts.

The school corporations have until June 2015 to agree to the proposed settlement.

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