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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, July 10, 2019 4:10 pm

State board learns virtual charter schools had inflated enrollment

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – "How did we miss this?"

That was the question on everyone’s minds at today’s State Board of Education meeting discussing two virtual charter schools that vastly inflated enrollment numbers and took millions in undeserved state funding.

In one case a deceased student was found on the rolls, according to a state audit, as well as other students that had been removed years before.

Board Chairman B.J. Watts asked the question as members seemed perplexed by the depth of the problems. This despite stories going back several years from news publication Chalkbeat Indiana about staggering enrollment growth and a limited number of teachers at the schools.

Tim Schultz, general counsel for the board, said it has little authority over virtual charter schools – putting responsibility largely on the authorizer of the Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy.

That is Daleville Community Schools in Delaware County, whose Superintendent Paul Garrison blamed gaps in the law and charter agreement with the operator.

“This isn’t one of my proudest moments,” Garrison said.

Daleville recently reached an agreement with the two schools after allegations emerged that the charter network had enrolled thousands of inactive students.

Under the deal, the Indiana Virtual School will close at the end of September and the Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy will close at the end of the 2019-20 school year.

No one from the operator – the Indiana Virtual Education Foundation – attended the meeting.