Three South Bend schools could soon have something in common with the Indiana Toll Road.
“It’s a blatant attempt to privatize schools,” said ISTA Uniserv Director Heidi Miller.
The South Bend high schools of Washington, Riley and Bendix are on academic probation and could end up being taken over by the Indiana Department of Education.
The department is now taking public comment on a proposed set of rules that would govern the take over process.
One option allows for the appointment of an “outside manager.”
“If these outside managers are approved, we will see our public dollars going to a private for-profit company to run out schools,” said Heidi Miller.
“And a company is going to make money off of these schools that are taken over so somebody is going to be making money off your tax dollars and as a taxpayer I would be just furious,” said Jason Zook, President of the National Education Association/ South Bend.
But hiring a private company to run the schools is just one option at the state’s disposal. One of many, according to Dr. Tony Bennett, Indiana State School Superintendent: “The focus on for-profit and outside managers is simply a scare tactic to divert the community from the issue at hand which is the fact that the children have been getting cheated in those schools and that the education of those children must improve.”
The rules also allow the state to shut down schools, or merge them with neighboring schools that are performing satisfactorily. The rules also allow the state to establish a charter school.
While the proposed rules are five pages long and cover many aspects of a school take over, they say very little about how local school districts would go about regaining control.
“These rules if adopted could sever these school buildings from the community school corporation as a whole for 20 years or some, they’ve not set a timetable as per these rules,” said Miller.
Dr. Bennett isn’t worried about the lack of language regarding how local districts could regain control.
“Given the failure to appropriately deliver the education to this point I’m not sure we should be in the business of even talking about returning schools to the school corporation that has not served the children for years on end,” Bennett told News Center 16 during a telephone interview.
A public hearing on the proposed take over rules will be held in Indianapolis at 10 a.m. on Friday.
A South Bend delegation of educators and community members is being formed to attend the hearing.