MUNCIE - Ball State University has dropped sponsorship of seven of the charter schools it sponsors across Indiana, sparking concern that some schools might lose their charters.
Imagine Life Sciences Academy East, on Indianapolis' east side, is one of the seven schools to have its BSU sponsorship pulled. Parents said they're surprised.
"Both of my daughters are reading like three grade levels up, so they have been really good with their math, their reading... It's just a really good school," said LaToya Balentine.
But Ball State Officials see it differently. They said it comes down to academics, financial and organizational performance and compliance.
The university's Office of Charter Schools is reviewing 20 of the 42 schools it sponsors as part of evaluations of the schools' academic performance, governance and finances.
"Decisions will be made very shortly" on the schools' futures, Office Executive Director Bob Marra told The Times of Munster.
The schools face three general options: Not having their charter renewed, being granted contract extensions that generally run for three years, or a five-year renewal that could be shortened or revoked. Marra said that charters of low-performing schools should not be renewed.
"Obviously, the primary purpose of the school is academic so the emphasis is on academics," he said. "But you can have stellar academic performance but still have financial or governance issues and still be closed."
Charter schools are alternative public schools that have had more curriculum freedom than traditional schools, but state law was changed last year to hold charters to the same academic standards as public schools.
Lawmakers also approved allowing a second office, the Indiana Charter School Board, to authorize charter schools in the state.
Although Ball State officials have until March 1 to announce the fate of the 20 charter schools being reviewed, Marra said the decision will be made soon to give students and parents time to make other arrangements if a school's charter is not renewed.
“None of these schools should be surprised,” said Marra. “We’ve advanced through methodical and iterative steps over the last two years to develop a framework that we believe will drive strong performance in our charter schools. And we’ve been transparently communicating with the schools about it since the summer.”