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Gary mayor wants a new charter school; city council wants to stop it

Contributed By:The 411 News

City Council moratorium will help stabilize a public school system that residents supported in referendum

After Gary Mayor Jerome Prince announced in his State of the City Address a plan to bring a new charter high school in the fall of 2022, the city council prepared and just days ago passed unanimously resolution CPR 2021-01 that places a moratorium on new charter schools in Gary.

“The residents of this city spoke in the last election, with over 60 percent passing the referendum, saying they wanted to put their dollars in support of our public school system,” said Councilman Ron Brewer.

“Men lie; women lie; but numbers don’t. That’s in the words of Jay-Z,” said Councilwoman Tai Adkins at the Planning Committee hearing on the resolution. “If you look at the data, charter schools don’t outperform public schools.”

The Prince Administration’s new high school will be in Glen Park and is a collaboration of Purdue University and Indiana University to expand the Purdue Polytechnic High School Corporation.

The corporation currently operates 3 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) high schools – PPHS Indy and PPHS North in Indianapolis, and PPHS South Bend in South Bend. PPHS Indy is the corporation’s first, opened in the 2017-18 school year.

“I reached out to Purdue Polytechnic about establishing Purdue Polytechnic High School in Gary to provide an academically rigorous learning environment in the City of Gary for the high achieving students,” Mayor Prince said about 1 of the three areas he sees the Gary public school system not fulfilling.

The other two areas identified by the mayor as not being fulfilled are improving early education and remediation of students who have fallen behind.

Mayor Prince said he wants the Gary public schools to succeed “but I will not stand by and watch another generation of Gary students slowed and inhibited in their learning due to problems with the school system.”

Language in the moratorium reflects some of the opposition to the mayor’s plans. “Over the past fourteen years, the Gary Community School Corporation lost over a quarter of a billion dollars in state support, which greatly undermines the district's ability to provide students with the educational services of which they are both entitled and deserve,” the resolution states.

According to the Indiana Dept. of Education Fall 2019-20 Transfer Report, 7,600 of the 11,952 students who live in the boundaries of the Gary public school corporation attended a different traditional public school corporation, attended a public charter, or used Indiana’s Choice Voucher to attend a public or private school.

Indiana sent $8,000 per student in state support to the Gary school district for 2019-20. Those 7,600 transfers represented a loss of $60.8 million.

During the 2019-20 school year, the Indianapolis Public School Corporation was the only school district with a higher number of transfers than Gary’s – 19,244 of the 46,855 students living in the boundaries of the Indianapolis public school corporation attended a different school district.

A ban on new charter schools in Gary requires approval from the Indiana Legislature. State Senator Eddie Melton said he will file legislation to establish a permanent charter school moratorium within the city limits. State Representatives Vernon Smith and Ragen Hatcher said they will support Melton’s legislation.

Story Posted:01/11/2021

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