Charter school offers $100 gift card incentive

INDIANAPOLIS - Some were not pleased that an Indianapolis charter school was offering $100 gift cards to parents who refer potential students to their school.

Carpe Diem-Meridian is three years old. It currently has 252 students and officials hope to increase that number. Each student is worth about $5,000 in state funding. 

The incentive was included in a school newsletter. It offers parents a $100 Marsh gift card for each new student they refer that completes orientation and enrollment.   

"We see the $100 gift card as a great thing. It is a good way to engage families if they are excited about the school,” Carpe Diem-Meridian spokeswoman Susan Decker said.

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education was less than enthusiastic about the incentive offer.

"I think that’s sad. Public schools used to be focused on school learning and achievement, but now everything must start with marketing because if they don't have students, they won't have a school," said Vic Smith with the Indiana Coalition for Public Education.

Kristina Frey sends her 6-year-old daughter to Fox Hill Elementary in Washington Township. She was outraged by the incentives the charter school was offering.

"It just smacks of paying people to funnel students away from their local neighborhood schools and bring them into this school. Frankly, charter schools don't have a good reputation of staying around and staying in business," Frey said.

Despite that criticism, 17-year-old Kayla Mayhugh sings the praises of Carpe Diem-Meridian.

"I came from a school of 3,000 kids and when I got here, there were only about 80, so it was really a small, familiar environment and I raised my GPA from 0.7 to 3.0," Mayhugh said.

Carpe Diem-Meridian officials said the school has a $30,000 marketing budget so more incentives can be expected.

In 2009, the State of Colorado passed a law that forbids public schools from offering items of value to encourage students to enroll. No such law exists in Indiana.

Follow Derrik Thomas on Twitter: @derrikthomas

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