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Charter schools and Bennett's 'reset' button

A Madison County citizens group has put state schools chief Tony Bennett in an awkward situation.

The group is looking to save Anderson Highland High School, which will be converted to a grade 7-9 school under Anderson Community Schools' consolidation plan. To that end, the newly created Madison County School Alliance wants to pull out of the ACS district and form its own school district, with two elementary schools and Highland as a junior high school.

Members met Monday with Bennett and other Department of Education representatives. The superintendent wasn't available for comment after the meeting, according to the Anderson Herald Bulletin.

It's an awkward situation because Bennett and Gov. Mitch Daniels are pushing district consolidation, not expansion. But how does Bennett, whose wife is on staff of the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association, explain to this group of parents why their schools should close while Indiana continues to open more and more charter schools?

If I were a member of the Madison County School Alliance, I would suggest they dump the plan to start a new school district and start investigating how to start a charter school. The Indiana Public Charter Schools Association could even offer some advice.

Bennett's mantra these days is that economic circumstances are forcing Indiana to hit the "reset button" on spending. Of course, his reset plan overlooks the 53 charter schools that have opened in Indiana since 2002.

But when the effects of $300 million in K-12 cuts shakes out, maybe Indiana will be down by 53 traditional schools.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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