Rokita to appeal decision in Indianapolis charter school lawsuit

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(The Center Square) – Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita said he plans to appeal a Marion County court decision that would preclude Indianapolis Public Schools from selling its closed buildings to charter school operators for $1.

Earlier this week, Marion County Superior Court Judge Heather Welch ruled the state’s largest public school district did not need to offer those buildings because it provides property tax funding to charter schools.

In a statement, Rokita said he is seeking a stay on Welch’s ruling while his office files its appeal to keep the district from selling either Francis Bellamy School 102 or Raymond F Brandes School 65. IPS has an agreement to consider selling the Francis Bellamy School to Eclectic Soul VOICES Corp. for $550,000 and could act on that quickly.

In 2011, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law requiring districts to give shuttered buildings to charter operators for $1. Earlier this year, lawmakers approved an exemption for districts that share tax funds with charter operators. However, Rokita’s office argues the new law doesn’t apply because it’s meant for school boards that have approved revenue-sharing plans since May.

Rokita said he will continue to fight because he believes in parents’ rights.

“The General Assembly enacted this law to help enable charter schools to thrive in our state,” Rokita said. “We will continue our fight to uphold the law not only because it is our statutory duty but also because it’s the right thing to do. Charter schools provide a multitude of positive opportunities for children and give Hoosier parents greater choice in how their kids are educated.”

IPS filed a lawsuit in August against Rokita and state education officials seeking an injunction to allow it to sell the properties, arguing it provides more than $4 million annually to Innovation Network Charter Schools. That came after Indiana Education Secretary Dr. Katie Jenner sent a letter to district officials reminding them they needed to notify the state about the closures.

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