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Senate Passes Ball State – Muncie Schools Bill

By Stephanie Wiechmann, IPR News | Published on in Education, Government, Local News
Muncie Central High School (FILE Photo: StateImpact Indiana)

The Senate has approved a school financials bill that would, in part, let Ball State University run Muncie Community Schools.  Senate discussion saw Delaware County’s two senators disagree on the first-of-its-kind plan in Indiana.  Now, IPR’s Stephanie Wiechmann reports on what happens next.

House Bill 1315 is a bill that, as its Senate sponsor put it, will help schools from becoming “distressed” like corporations in Muncie and Gary.  But it also adds new rules to the state takeovers of those two districts.  In Muncie, it would turn over the local schools to Ball State University.  It would replace the elected school board with one appointed largely by Ball State.  And it has no specified end date.

With those details, Muncie Democratic Senator Tim Lanane calls the plan an “experiment.”  He says his community loses votes on its future and parents lose rights.

“Okay, so if I’m a parent and I’ve got a concern about something which has happened that affects my child, what do I do?  I go to this board?  Who do I – I complain to the president of Ball State University about this?”

But Republican Senator Doug Eckerty sees it differently.  He’s from Yorktown and represents portions of Delaware County.  He calls the plan “a gift” and says most of the community supports the plan.

“With respect to Ball State University’s takeover – for the community of Muncie, what a gift.   They’re staking their entire reputation as a university on this issue.  They’re staking their entire reputation of their teacher’s college on this issue.”

Read More: First Boston, Now Muncie? Lessons From A University-School Collaboration

The bill passed 35-14.  But it doesn’t head to the governor’s desk yet.  Since the Senate changed the House-written measure, bill author Representative Tim Brown and his GOP caucus could agree with the changes and send it to the full House for one more vote.  If they disagree, it heads to a conference committee for more possible changes.