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Turnaround time

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard received a frosty response to suggestions that his office take control of the seven IPS schools facing state takeover this year.

But if a takeover occurs, the mayor's office is probably the best equipped to handle it. Ballard's Office of Education Innovation directly oversees 24 schools. That's two dozen more schools than the Indiana Department of Education directly oversees.

In fact, the DOE would follow the model of most Indiana charter sponsors and contract out the operation of the schools. The state already has vetted turnaround operators ready to come in and operate Indiana schools for a fee. Dale Chu, the state's assistant superintendent for policy, legal and communications, told me in early February that the list of operators would be finalized by April, but the Indianapolis Star reported last week that Superintendent Tony Bennett had declined to name the five finalists. They will be paid with funds from the districts whose schools are taken over.

Indiana charter schools have a mixed record of achievement, but the mayor's charter office, established under Democrat Bart Peterson, seems to have performed reasonably well. When Imagine Inc. first pitched its complex real estate/charter deal in Indy, the mayor's charter office questioned whether the costly building lease deal would leave enough money to adequately support academic programs. It rejected Imagine's application and the charter operator instead turned to Ball State University for authorization of its two Indianapolis schools.

At the very least, the Office of Education Innovation has an established track record. Perhaps the DOE's turnaround specialists have track records, but we don't know because the state superintendent won't identify them.

On the subject of turnarounds, Bloomington blogger Steve Hinnefeld has an interesting post regarding the fact that all of the targeted schools are high 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