Proponents of traditional public schools are upset about the Indiana General Assembly forgiving startup loans for charter schools — even schools that failed. They make a good point.
School choice is, or should be, about putting all schools on an even footing. Then the choice between traditional public school, charter school and private school, where available, should go to the parents.
But the Indiana General Assembly, with money burning a hole in its pocket, this year took the injudicious step of forgiving $91.2 million in startup loans to charter schools.
We understand the need for startup loans to get charter schools going. State support for school operations is paid in arrears, meaning several months of instruction must be provided before the state sends payments to the schools for those students.
But why forgive those startup loans? And why forgive them regardless of the performance of each particular school?
Charter schools are under contract to provide a quality education to the students enrolled there. School accountability requires holding each school responsible for adequately preparing children.
So why did the General Assembly not hold them to their contract, or at least set up terms for gradual debt forgiveness? Instead, the Legislature took another slap at the traditional schools.
Even charter schools that closed would see those loans repaid by the state's taxpayers. Failure shouldn't be rewarded.
We support charter schools. Competition makes schools stronger. But we also want charter schools, like other schools, to be held accountable.
It also must be noted that the $91.2 million to forgive these loans is 1.5 percent of the school funding formula. That's money that could have gone toward educating children.
And if the state wants to give away $91.2 million on a whim, it should have rebuilt the Cline Avenue bridge.