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File / The Journal Gazette
Former Pleasant Center Elementary School

Charter school association sues over FWCS building

Statement issued Monday by the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association:

(FORT WAYNE, IND. – DEC 19, 2011) Russ Simnick, president of the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association (IPCSA), today announced that the IPCSA has filed a lawsuit to stop a transfer of title of a vacant school building to the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority ("Airport Authority") because it violates a new state law.

The IPCSA, a membership organization of Indiana public charter schools, filed the complaint in Allen County on behalf of its member school, Timothy L. Johnson Academy, and any charter school that may be interested in the building. The IPCSA contends the law gives charter schools the right to lease or purchase vacant school buildings.

A new law passed this year by the Indiana General Assembly, Public Law 91-2011, requires school districts to report vacant school buildings to the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) and make those buildings available to public charter schools. Timothy L. Johnson Academy stated its interest to IDOE to lease or purchase the vacant Pleasant Center Elementary School, 2323 West Pleasant Center Road, from Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS).

IDOE notified Fort Wayne Community Schools that Timothy L. Johnson Academy could occupy the building and that the two parties should coordinate Timothy L. Johnson Academy's acquisition of Pleasant Center Elementary. However, the board of the Fort Wayne Community Schools voted Monday, December 12, to instead transfer Pleasant Center Elementary School to the Airport Authority rather than make it available to the Timothy L. Johnson Academy.

Simnick says this is a violation of the law. "When a district closes a building, the new law clearly states that a public charter school has the right to use the school building for the reason taxpayers built it – to educate children," said Simnick.

"Governor Daniels and the Indiana General Assembly were adamant that taxpayers paid for these buildings to be used as schools. Neither this district, nor any other, has the right to give the building away to someone else just so a charter school can't use it to educate public school children. Indiana taxpayers should not stand for this, and neither will we."

The Indiana Public Charter Schools Association offers services, advocacy and support for Indiana's 65 public charter schools. More than 23,000 students attend public charter schools in Indiana. The Association web site is www.INcharters.org.

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