(STATEHOUSE) - The Senate has approved a bill aimed at broadening the reach of charter schools in Indiana.
The bill would expand the authority to issue charters to private universities, the mayors of Indiana's largest cities, and a new statewide charter board.
Current law limits that authority to local school boards, the Mayor of Indianapolis, and public universities.
Ball State is the only university to use its chartering authority.
The bill also gives charters an opportunity to take possession of vacant school buildings, and sets up an accountability process under which charter schools could close or their sponsors have their issuing authority revoked if they don't meet educational standards.
Opponents charge charter schools are already underperforming, pointing to ISTEP results showing 21 charters among the 40 worst schools.
Senate Education Chairman Dennis Kruse counters studies indicate charter students start out 16% behind other students, as charters seek out students most in need of help.
Senator Earline Rogers, one of the few Democrats to support charter schools, voted against the bill.
She describes the legislation originally passed by the house as "a charter bill run wild," and while she calls the bill improved, she's angry about a couple of amendments involving the conversion of traditional public schools to charters.
The bill allows a majority of parents to petition to switch their school to a charter.
Senators stripped Rogers' provision requiring a majority of teachers to concur, a step Rogers calls "unfair and insulting."
Other Democrats ripped the entire charter-school idea as an attack on public schools.
House Speaker Brian Bosma has said he's reviewing the senate's changes to decide whether to ask the house to approve them or ask the senate to negotiate additional changes.
Senators voted 29-20 to approve the bill, with seven Republicans joining all Democrats in voting no.
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