Wright expresses disappointment at House passage of Muncie schools takeover

April 6, 2017 Melanie Wright

INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Melanie Wright (D-Yorktown) today issued the following statement after the Indiana House approved legislation (Senate Bill 567) that would pave the way for the state of Indiana to have the state take control of Muncie Community Schools:

“I am very disturbed about today’s actions, both in the short term for what it means for Muncie and in the long term for what it could mean for any number of schools across Indiana.

“While those who advocated this proposal use the current budget deficit at Muncie Schools as a rationale for a complete takeover, the fact is that this move is being made with little or no advance warning. There was no input from the superintendent, the school board, teachers, parents, students, the mayor, the city council or the community as a whole.

“Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this is that if this provision becomes law, the state can come in and make decisions that affect not only school finances, but school academics as well. What can they do? Who knows, and that is exactly the point. We are giving the state unchecked power to do whatever it wants, and who knows what the consequences might be. Could schools be closed? Could teachers be laid off? Could students be sent from one school to another with little advance warning? We don’t know.

“I realize that Muncie’s financial performance deserves our concern, but I also would say that the current superintendent and school board and teachers understand the problems, and seem willing to work together to find answers. Less than a decade ago, there were huge academic concerns about Muncie Schools, yet local officials have made great strides to improve the performances in the classroom.

“But I also believe it is imperative for lawmakers to take a few moments to consider what this type of legislation will mean for schools across this state, not just Muncie or Gary.

“There has been a constant drumbeat of concern from school officials across this state, as they continue to weigh the implications of financial decisions made in the Statehouse. Again and again, public schools are being asked to perform their Constitutional duties with a dwindling amount of financial support, as the General Assembly continues to experiment and expand programs for vouchers.

“Now we are seeing the impact of dealing with a smaller piece of a shrinking pie. During hearings on SB 567, two other school corporations were mentioned as being at financial risk. How many others across Indiana are nearing the same crisis point? I have a feeling we are just beginning to see our state gain complete control over more and more schools across Indiana.

“And, once again, where does this leave our children? So many kids across Indiana find themselves pulled from all different sides, as the academic environment has become one of constant fears about such things as testing and academic performance that could end up penalizing them in the long run. How are we helping them learn and develop their skills and abilities?

“There is still time to prevent this bill from becoming law. It deserves to be set aside, and I pledge to fight it in the days we have left this session.”