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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Congressman Marlin Stutzman talks with ninth-grader Leah Lowery during his tour Wednesday of the New Tech wing at Wayne High School. Looking on is state Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury.

An ally for charter schools

Stutzman boosts parental choice, opportunity they afford

– U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman expressed support for charter schools during a tour of one Wednesday.

“It’s just a different model, and it gives parents a choice to put their students in a system or a school that works best for them,” Stutzman, R-3rd, told reporters at Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy.

“I think you will see a continuing expansion of charter schools,” he said.

Stutzman earlier visited Wayne High School, which is in the Fort Wayne Community Schools district.

“I want to make sure I’m educated in what our education system is needing,” he said.

The Marshall Academy, which opened last year, has about 95 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The public school is authorized by the Indiana Charter School Board, overseen by the Fort Wayne Urban League and managed by American Quality Schools of Chicago.

Stutzman said that some charter schools – “as in anything” – will struggle. Ball State University announced this year it will not renew the charters of three schools it authorized in Fort Wayne: Imagine Schools on Broadway, Imagine MASTer Academy and Timothy L. Johnson Academy. Ball State cited poor academic performance and inadequate improvement at the schools, which together enroll nearly 1,500 students.

“There’s going to be some that come up short,” Stutzman told reporters. “I think the best thing we can do is rally around them, find out what the problems are and fix them. Because at the end of the day, it’s about making sure our parents and students are getting the best opportunity and education that they need.”

Stutzman was asked whether he was concerned that charter schools are diverting state funds from traditional public schools.

“No, because I see what these (charter) schools are doing with smaller amounts of dollars,” he said.

“The money shouldn’t be the focus; it should really be the students” and their performance, he said. “I think that people will adjust and realize that all parents and all students need to have the opportunity and the flexibility. …”

Many students, clad in burgundy polo shirts and navy slacks, lined up to meet their congressman near the entrance of the Marshall Academy. Stutzman visited classrooms, poked his head into the kitchen and dropped by a gym class.