INDIANAPOLIS – On the verge of committee report deadlines, a proposal co-authored by State Senator Eddie Melton (D-Merrillville) was approved with amendments by the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday.
Senate Bill (SB) 567 was amended to include Muncie Community Schools, along with the Gary Community School Corporation (GCSC), as a distressed political subdivision.
“I think it was premature to include Muncie in this bill as they are facing a much less drastic financial crisis than Gary,” Sen. Melton said.
The amendment also allows a superintendent or the governing body of a school corporation and the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board to petition the Distressed Unit Appeals Board (DUAB) and consider a school corporation for designation as distressed; rearranges the duties and powers of the emergency manager; and requires the emergency manager to employ a chief academic officer.
Sen. Melton was concerned with the amount of control the amendment gives to the emergency manager, such as academic control over the school corporation and the ability to sell property or land without any input. The amendment also eliminated language that would provide access to possible grants from unspent tuition support which Sen. Melton found to be a key part in the proposal.
“I appreciate Representative Tim Brown and Senator Luke Kenley’s work on this legislation. I am hopeful that once this proposal reaches the House floor there will be second reading amendments that will address the concerns that I have at providing more local input and transparency,” Sen. Melton said. “At the end of the day, appointing an emergency manager will not solve this issue without providing a source of additional funding.”
SB 567 now moves to the full House of Representatives where further amendments can be made.
“I caution the state on looking at broad actions of taking over school districts as there are multiple contributing factors for the financial state that districts face across the state,” Sen. Melton said. “I urge the General Assembly to study this issue holistically and figure out how we can address the immediate financial issues and how we can help prevent other districts from spiraling into similar financial crises.