(INDIANAPOLIS) – The discovery of phantom enrollments at two virtual charter schools has Democrats renewing efforts to demand more accountability.
A state audit found the now-closed Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy collected 86-million dollars in state funding they weren’t entitled to by inflating their enrollment numbers by hundreds of students. One student who died was included in the enrollment count two years in a row.
Senate Democrats maintain bills they introduced last year and again this year would have prevented the scandal. Gary Senator Eddie Melton has pushed to cap charter enrollment. And Bloomington Senator Mark Stoops says he’s now tried three years in a row to require charter authorizers to post a bond on the charters’ behalf. He says taxpayers would have been protected if the Daleville Community Schools had been required to do that for the two virtual schools.
Stoops tried to amend the bond requirement into another bill in the Education Committee on Wednesday, but only one Republican joined Democrats in supporting it. Democrats say they’ll try again in another committee on Thursday.
Senate Education Chairman Jeff Raatz (R-Richmond) says it’s obvious the two virtual schools committed “terrible fraud.” But he and House Speaker Brian Bosma say Daleville or Indiana Department of Education officials should have caught the discrepancies themselves. Raatz says other virtual and bricks-and-mortar charters have followed the rules and don’t need additional burdens from the legislature.
Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) argues regardless of who should have been in charge, it’s legislators’ job to install safeguards to ensure something similar doesn’t happen again. He argues charters haven’t been subjected to the transparency requirements of traditional public schools.