City-County councillor's tax plan taps charter schools to streamline budget

City-County Councilor Brian Mahern proposes plan

INDIANAPOLIS - Indianapolis City-County Councilor Brian Mahern has introduced a plan aimed at balancing the budget and keeping your taxes from going up, but the idea isn’t sitting well with some who say it will only take money away from the classroom.

Mahern’s proposal would require mayor sponsored charter schools to pay an annual fee equal to 3% of basic tuition support.

According to the city’s website, the city has 19 charter schools sponsored by Mayor Greg Ballard and the city county council recently approved charters for seven more.
“We’re seeing growing numbers of charter schools, and I think it’s an important discussion to have, that they should chip in especially when we’re in really tight budget times,” said Mahern.

Currently, the city Office of Education Innovation uses city staff members and resources to perform monthly visits to charter schools, work with the schools’ individual boards, and write annual reports.

Mahern said charging the fee would generate more than $1.5 million a year to support not just charter schools, but other schools as well.

“That would free up money with the general fund for other priorities,” said Mahern. “We could look at things like educational engagement, maybe related to violence we’ve seen in schools

The mayor’s office says the plan is not needed right now.

“We’re generally opposed to this because councilor Mahern’s proposal would take $1.8 million out of charter schools and redirect it to administration,” said Marc Lotter, spokesperson for Ballard. “So much of what you’re hearing right now in education is getting more money into the classroom.”

Mahern’s proposal would also require the mayor to give a charter school written notice at least 120 days before the school year starts of his decision to revoke the school’s charter.

“If they’re not notified in a timely manner, they might find themselves in a situation where they’re forced to close,” said Mahern. “That is unfortunate and unnecessary, inconvenient to parents and even teachers.”

The mayor’s office is opposed to the idea.

“We don’t want to do anything that would force a bad school to face financial affiliates to stay open,” Lotter said. “It’s a very difficult decision to close the school, but there are reasons whether they be financial or academic, and we don’t want to provide an incentive for bad schools to remain open.”

The proposal has been assigned the Community Affairs committee.

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