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Chaining a charter watchdog

The quiet chorus whining about Fort Wayne attorney Mark GiaQuinta's appointment to the new state charter board can relax – he has resigned.

State officials informed him recently that the $35 stipend paid for board meetings constitute a "lucrative position." Because he is paid for service on the Fort Wayne Community Schools board, he can't accept a second lucrative position.

GiaQuinta sent a letter to House Minority Leader Pat Bauer, who appointed him to the board, today:

I was recently informed that there is a $35 payment for meetings held by the state Charter Commission. I have also been informed that this payment, though small, might cause the appointment to constitute a lucrative position under the Constitution.

In the past, I have served on State boards where reimbursement was made for mileage which is not a lucrative payment, but this amount is apparently over and above mileage reimbursement. I do not know if it is intended to pay parking, meals or other reimbursable expenses but since there is a degree of doubt the safer course is to decline your appointment before taking the oath of office or providing any significant service.

Since I have much work to do at FWCS, I do not wish to vacate that office to serve on the Charter Commission. As much as I would have enjoyed this work I therefore must decline your kind appointment. I would have liked very much to have served the State of Indiana on the Commission and once my tenure on the FWCS Board ends, I hope that you will consider me for appointment.

Bauer is now entitled to another appointment and taxpayers should hope he will select someone who would have been as diligent as GiaQuinta in considering charter school applications. The legislation was clearly pushed to rapidly expand the number of charter schools. Indiana's existing charters have a mixed record of success, with some performing poorly compared to the traditional public school nearby. The financial operations of some of the schools are even more troubling, as The Journal Gazette has reported, with outrageous facility costs benefiting real estate investors.

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