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Let the games begin

Forbes.com blogger Bob Cook has an interesting take on IPS Superintendent Eugene White's plan to pull the plug on sports and extra-curricular activities at the Indy schools in line for state takeover.

Cook, whose blog focuses on youth sports, points out the contradiction of promoting school competition and then crying foul when the other side fights back.

"The takeover legislation was intended, in part, to improve struggling schools by creating competition," Cook writes. "And, by god, before the first private charter school company steps into the buildings of the taken over Indianapolis schools, the district itself is improving its other schools. Of course, it's by gutting the schools that were taken over, but did legislators and the state education department expect local superintendents and boards to sit by idly when they came marching in? Isn't Eugene White kinda, sorta doing what the state wanted him to do?"

There certainly is a case to be made that White is doing exactly that. The private charter operators that take over certainly can continue the extra programs, including sports, at their own expense, which one of the operators already has confirmed it will do.

There also is some irony in that state Superintendent Tony Bennett, a former high school basketball coach, has never met a sports analogy or cliché he couldn't use. His cross-state speaking and listening tour last year was called "Season Opener." In a July podcast, he praised "champions who stepped up to the plate," and introduced House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning, as "quarterback" for the legislative changes approved this year.

Bennett once told me he enjoyed reading my comments on his policies because it reminded him of "parents who sit behind the bench and yell." I took it as a compliment.

Eugene White's move does look petty and knee-jerk reactive, but it also points out the challenges of competing on an uneven playing field. The charter operators coming in to play clean-up (sorry – I'm just following the sports theme already set) should be expected to offer all the programs and services students and parents had come to expect.

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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