Saturday, the Gary delegation of state officials talked about HB1187 on WLTH Radio

State House Republicans tell how to end takeover of Gary public school district

Contributed By:The 411 News

Gary legislators alarmed at bill that would get rid of teachers union and let state appoint the school board

Calls for ending state control of the Gary public schools began almost as soon as the district was taken over in 2017.

As the district nears financial stability -- a guidepost for ending the takeover -- efforts to plan the next steps are becoming more prominent.

This week, Republican members of the Indiana State House introduced a bill in response to returning local control to Gary residents. HB1187 calls for measures that have inflamed Gary residents and their state elected represenatatives.

HB1187 would end union representation for Gary teachers. It would return financial and academic matters to a school board appointed by the Indiana Secretary of Education.

Friday, a group of school parents and residents gathered at the office of the Gary Teachers Union to talk about ways to oppose the bill.

GTU president GlenEva Dunham said the union will fight the bill.

A delegation of House and Senate members representing Gary spoke about the bill on WLTH Radio Saturday.

State Rep. Vernon Smith and State Sen. Eddie Melton have served as non-voting members of the Distressed Unit Appeal Board, the Indiana agency that manages the school district with its day-to-day operating partners MGT Consulting and Gary Schools Recovery.

"We put fourth recommendations on transitioning from state takeover and they have been totally disregarded," said Melton.

State Senator Lonnie Randolph said, "I'm speechless. The obvious thing that comes to my mind is racism. This indicates to me the feelings and thoughts of people beyond the city of Gary. They consider us less than human beings. If this bill passes there should be a lawsuit against the general assembly and state of Indiana."

"After December 31, 2021," HB1187 states, "an exclusive representative of the Gary Community School Corporation may not enter into a collective bargaining agreement with the Gary Community School Corporation."

If enacted, the bill would prevent GCSC Manager Paige McNulty from negotiating with the teachers union for another contract. In December, the district and the union ratified a one-year contract for 2021-22.

"After June, 30, 2023," the bill states, "Gary schools employees may not form, join, or assist school employee organizations; may not participate in collective bargaining with school employers through representatives of their own choosing; and may not engage in other activities, individually or in concert to establish, maintain, or improve salaries, wages, salary and wage related fringe benefits."

The bill gives authority to the Indiana Secretary of Education to appoint a 7-member school board. Five of the members will be named by the education secretary. The two remaining positions will come from a list of candidates submitted to the education secretary by the Gary mayor and the Gary city council.

Four members of the school board must be Gary residents. School board members will serve 4-year terms.

Upon release from distressed unit status, the bill requires the school board to appoint the district's emergency manager as the school superintendent for one year.

HB1187's authors are Rep. Tim Brown, from Crawfordsville and chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, and Rep. Jeffrey Thompson, from Lizton.

Brown also authored HB1315, the 2017 bill that created the state takeover because the district couldn't pay its bills.

Takeover of the Gary school district will end, as defined by HB1315, when the district maintains financial stability for two consecutive years.

The district ended 2021 without a deficit, meaning it balanced its budget, paid its bills without borrowing and is expected to do the same in 2022. Under state control, the district's yearly deficit was cut from the $18 million it had in 2017.

When the DUAB came to Gary in November to hold its monthly meeting, many of the residents' comments and questions were directed to ending state takeover and asking the board to begin making plans for it.

State Rep. Vernon Smith, l-r, State Rep. Earl Harris, State Rep. Ragen Hatcher,
State Sen. Eddie Melton, and State Sen. Lonnie Randolph

Story Posted:01/09/2022

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