Harding Supporters Press On With Petition Drive To Snatch Charter School

By Scott Sarvay
By Jeff Neumeyer

April 19, 2011 Updated Apr 19, 2011 at 6:09 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - Supporters of an effort to convert Harding High School into a charter school are keeping their fingers crossed for passage of a new state law.

It’s a story that is capturing so much attention in the East Allen County School district these days.

Currently, if you're looking to convert a failing school into a charter in Indiana, you need 51 percent of the parents for that school to sign petitions as well as 60 percent of the teachers and then add in board approval.

A bill under consideration in the legislature would strip out the teacher and board involvements.

Fort Wayne Urban League staff members were taking signatures Tuesday at the Hessen Cassel Library branch, trying to help save Harding for next year.

Groups in support of the Harding rescue plan have already selected American Quality Schools to run a prospective Harding charter, the same company running the successful Bowman Academy charter in Gary.

Jamie Garwood/Ft. Wayne Urban League: " It's one of the best schools in the state, they graduate twice as many African-American students with an honors diploma than the state average. They're really showing that the achievement gap does not exist, as long as there are high expectations for students."

Garwood says maintaining the requirement that 60 percent of teachers sign petitions in favor of creating a new charter can effectively block such a conversion, because public school teachers are often leery of charters, fearing the change could cost them their job, or equal pay and benefits.

People wanting to sign petitions on this issue can stop by the Fort Wayne Urban League week-days.

This is a formal petition drive in accordance with Indiana law, if parents previously signed general community petitions, they will still need to sign the official conversion petition.

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