Fort Wayne charter school withdraws bid after facing strong opposition

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A group behind a charter school project that faced strong opposition from the elected board and community school leaders in Fort Wayne has withdrawn its application to open a school within the boundaries of the district.

The Indiana state charter school board was scheduled to vote on the Fort Wayne Preparatory Academy bid at its town hall meeting Thursday.

The removal came days after the Superintendent of Fort Wayne Schools, teachers and community members held a public hearing at the county library to voice concerns about the school’s budget, location and partnership. school with Ohio-based education management company Accel Schools.

The debate over the proposed school comes amid fresh disputes between school districts and charter schools. The South Bend and Carmel Clay districts are both facing allegations from groups organizing charter schools that they failed to follow an Indiana law that would allow a charter school to lease or buy an unused school building.

Charter schools are public schools that are granted an operating contract by one of Indiana’s many authorizers. Charter schools receive direct per-student funding similar to traditional school corporations and are eligible to receive additional per-student grants. But they don’t receive property tax funds to cover transportation or facilities.

Courtney Harritt, spokeswoman for Accel Schools and Fort Wayne Preparatory Academy, said the decision to withdraw the application was not in response to the April 18 hearing.

“We recognize that there may be opposition to charter schools, but in our experience, parents and guardians tend to appreciate having choice in schools,” Harritt said in an email. “We support every family making the best decision for each of their children.”

Harritt said they were still interested in operating in Fort Wayne. The K-8 school would offer an “individualized learning” program through an in-person classroom and virtual instruction.

“We have decided to withdraw our application to allow ourselves time to work with interested stakeholders to better define and meet community needs,” she said.

Harritt said they are not currently seeking another approver in Indiana to charter the proposed school.

Even if the prep school application has been withdrawn, it may be resubmitted to the state charter school board or other approver.

Fort Wayne Superintendent Mark Daniel opposed the charter application because the district could potentially receive less state funding if current students choose to attend the proposed school instead.

“One of the negatives when you have an extra school, a public school in your neighborhood, there are limited resources,” Daniel said during the public hearing last week. “These limited resources relate to how we meet the needs of our children who have special needs and our [English learning language] students.”

Daniel said the district does not have enough state and federal funds to meet the needs of these and other students.

The Indiana State Charter School Board will meet for the first time in person since the pandemic began at 9 a.m. Thursday in Conference Room A at the Indiana Government Center South in Indianapolis. The meeting will be streamed live on YouTube.

The board will vote on nominations for 21st Century Charter School in Gary and Paramount School of Excellence in Lafayette.

Contact WFYI Education Editor Eric Weddle at [email protected] Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.

Copyright 2022 WFYI Public Radio. For more, visit WFYI Public Radio.

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