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Thursday, July 12, 2018 1:00 am

Horizon Academy has waiver rejected

10-1 education board vote catches school off guard

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Horizon Christian Academy can't accept new state-paid voucher students after the State Board of Education denied a waiver request Wednesday.

The school at 2000 N. Wells St. can continue serving current voucher students and those who pay private school tuition.

The board voted 10-1 to accept the staff recommendation against the waiver. There was no discussion.

Horizon Superintendent Tammy Henline said school officials attended the meeting fully prepared to discuss their case and were told there would be an opportunity to talk. 

“When they voted without giving us that option we were caught completely off guard,” she said. “It was very confusing, and at first we didn't even realize they had voted on our issue.”

Horizon received an accountability letter grade of D for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years, followed by an F in 2016-17.

State law says a voucher school receiving any combination of D's or F's in consecutive years cannot grant choice scholarships to new students until the school receives a C or better in consecutive years. The state board can issue a waiver of consequences.

Last year, 245 students were enrolled at Horizon, and the school received $1.38 million in taxpayer funds to educate them.

According to Horizon's waiver request, the academy “serves primarily inner-city students from poor to lower-middle-class families.” School officials believe that many students arrive two to three letter grades below grade level.

In an emailed statement Tuesday night, Henline said the school has been successful in “taking at-risk kids and helping them achieve success.”

“The end result is what ultimately matters, and our end results are strong. Our students are going into colleges around the country and doing well,” the statement said.

Horizon officials believe a waiver is “in order so that we can continue to demonstrate success with students who wish to become part of Horizon under the Choice Scholarship Program,” the email stated.

The education board staff memo said an analysis of Horizon's student growth scores shows Horizon is able to demonstrate academic improvement with respect to some of its students. However, the number of students demonstrating either standard or high growth falls well below a majority.

Horizon can seek a rehearing or petition for judicial review.