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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ind. Gov't. - "Left in dark on charter appeals"

An editorial today in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette begins:

Charter schools are public schools, financed with your tax dollars. Yet when Ball State University – a public, taxpayer-subsidized school – hears appeals from three local charter schools trying to save their Ball State-authorized charters, the hearings will be secret.

No public, no video or audio recording of the hearing. Period.

Why? A Ball State spokeswoman says the university considers the hearings – which are part of the schools’ formal appeals of Ball State’s decision to revoke their charters – an administrative matter that is similar to a personnel or disciplinary hearing.

But they aren’t. The hearings will determine the fate of Timothy L. Johnson Academy, Imagine MASTer Academy and Imagine Schools on Broadway. The revocation has garnered much public interest, and the public has every reason to hear details on why Ball State revoked the charter – especially since at least one school, the Johnson Academy, is already seeking a charter from another authorized sponsor.

By all appearances, Ball State was correct in revoking the charters, but it has an appeal process in place. The university’s Office of Charter Schools has developed a very detailed process for hearing an appeal, including listing who may attend. But it does not specifically bar the public.

Sadly, because Ball State President Jo Ann Gora will appoint the hearing panel, it appears to fall outside the scope of the state’s open meetings law.

Even worse, such exceptions to the open meetings law are too typical. While the essence of the law is solid, it includes far too many loopholes and fails to include some government boards – such as Ball State’s charter appeals board. And though the law specifically instructs judges to liberally construe the law in favor of openness, that is not always the case.

Indeed, in far too many areas, Indiana continues to foster a closed government atmosphere. * * *

The House approved another bill that would allow local governments to charge up to $20 an hour if a request for public records requires more than two hours of public employee work. [ILB - this would be HB 1175]

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 13, 2013 11:05 AM
Posted to Indiana Government