Town Hall Meeting Turns Into Charter vs. Public School Debate

By Scott Sarvay
By John W. Davis
By Max Resnik

January 26, 2011 Updated Jan 26, 2011 at 11:51 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) held a standing room only town hall meeting in Fort Wayne Wednesday. Most of the discussion was about the merits of using state education funding to create more charter schools in Indiana.

Bosma spent Wednesday afternoon and evening at IPFW as part of his Speaker Town Hall Series.

He met with members of the media where charter schools dominated the conversation.

During his public town hall meeting, much of the discussion was the same, centering around charter schools.

Bosma is authoring the Charter School Extension Bill.

He said he is personally meeting with school principals, superintendents, parents and the teachers association to refocus the discussion on providing Hoosier students the best education possible.

"Of the top ten, most improved schools in our state over the last year, five of those are charters," said Republican Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma.

"The bottom 49, 41 of them are charter schools, three of which are in Fort Wayne of course..." recanted Julie Hyndman, a public school teacher at Fort Wayne Lincoln Elementary School.

Hyndman who is also a member of the Fort Wayne Education Association and an Indiana State Teacher's Association Board Member continued, "yes we need to tweak things and we do that regularly, monthly, weekly sometimes. But we look at it and we work together through joint discussion."

"So they are again not a silver bullet, but they are especially effective at reaching out to those who are under served, in disadvantaged communities and giving them an option that is right for their family," explained Bosma.

He also discussed what he termed as the "re-institution of civility" in the General Assembly. For the first time in state history, two minority party members will head House committees. Democrats will head the Commerce and Economic Development Committee and the Government Reduction Committee.

Hyndman used the former Elmhurst High School building as an example of Bosma's House 1002 Charter School Extension Bill.

She explained that Bosma wants all unused public school buildings like Elmhurst, to be available for charter schools to rent for $1 dollar per year.

Bosma believes that would be a great way to expand charter schools.

Hyndman believes that idea "is almost criminal" and could bankrupt Fort Wayne Community Schools because they would still own the building and ultimately be responsible for its upkeep.

Bosma's bill would also allow all four-year public universities in Indiana to sponsor charter schools.

Private schools like Notre Dame and Rose Hulman would also be given that privilege.

Right now, only Ball State University is the only higher learning institution who sponsors charter schools in Indiana.

Mayors of cities with more than 35,000 residents, like Fort Wayne, South Bend, Gary, Evansville and a host of other cities, would legally be able to sponsor charter schools.

Right now, only the Mayor of Indianapolis has that power.

Some political experts think the bill is on the fast track to pass by the end of April.

The end of April is of the utmost significance because Indiana has a part-time legislature and the 2011 session will be over by the end of April.

Republicans also have the majority needed to pass the bill into law, in the Indiana House, the Indiana Senate, and the support of Republican Governor Mitch Daniels.

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