State Rep. Vernon Smith

Rep. Smith will join Distressed Unit Appeal Board

Contributed By:The 411 News

Spurred by Gary and Muncie schools legislation

Indiana’s House Democratic Leader Terry Goodin of Austin has appointed State Rep. Vernon G. Smith (D-Gary) to the Distressed Unit Appeal Board (DUAB).

Dr. Smith said the non-voting, advisory position will enable him to represent the voices of citizens in Gary and Muncie, whose school districts have undergone significant changes because of recent legislative action.

HB 1315, passed last week in the special session of the Indiana General Assembly and signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, removed all powers of the elected school boards in Gary and Muncie. The school districts in both cities are under state control because of their inabilities to pay their bills. The legislation also designated the DUAB to create a watch list of Indiana schools in financial trouble.

The DUAB receives petitions from school corporations in need of financial help as well as from distressed political subdivisions. The agency also monitors the educational management organizations the state selected as partners to operate the Gary and Muncie schools.

“I appreciate the opportunity to serve on the DUAB,” said Dr. Smith. “I look forward to offering input on the board. Even though it is a non-voting position, I will be able to represent the views of the Gary community. In legislative hearings, I also heard the plight of Muncie residents, so I will be able to represent them as well.”

Dr. Smith opposed HB 1315. He said the bill was unnecessary, ignoring the successes both school districts have made in reducing their debts since the state takeover of Gary schools in 2017, while the Muncie school district was put on a watch list. “During the debate on HB 1315, we heard excuses why the Gary and Muncie school districts should be taken over. The information offered by the bill’s proponents about the schools, including financial information was dated and wrong. The Republican majorities also refused to consider the successes the financial managers in both the Gary and Muncie school districts are having in reducing indebtedness,” Smith said.

Smith said he will urge citizens of both Gary and Muncie to join together in a lawsuit to challenge the bill’s disenfranchisement of the elected school boards…”this denial of the right to self-determination through voting, a right that is afforded to residents in all other school districts throughout the state.”

Story Posted:05/21/2018

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