The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, February 19, 2020 4:17 pm

State Democrats call for more oversight of virtual charter schools

Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS -- Fallout from the demise of two virtual charter schools continued Wednesday as Democrats called for more oversight and that political contributions taken by Republicans from the schools be returned.

Senate Democrats pointed to multiple bills they offered in 2019 and 2020 to provide more guardrails for virtual charter schools but Republicans controlling the chamber refused to hear them.

Republicans on the Senate Education Committee also rejected an amendment Wednesday that would have addressed the issue.

"We need to have some guardrails. We need to have some accountability," said Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson.

Indiana Virtual School and its sister academy have been under a cloud since a Chalkbeat investigation in 2017 uncovered inflated enrollments and money being sent to a bevy of outside vendors related to the founder.

A State Board of Accounts review released last week found the schools wrongly received $68.7 million in state payments by improperly claiming about 14,000 students as enrolled between 2011 and 2019, even though they had no online course activity. In addition, the schools inappropriately paid almost $86 million to companies linked to the schools' founder or his associates.

Senate Education Chairman Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond, said oversight already exists, but those in charge didn’t properly do their jobs. He was referring to the charter school authorizer and the Indiana Department of Education.

"We all should be sad what happened in Daleville. There’s obviously some terrible fraud that went on. The FBI is involved. And we are going to trust the process and that those who misbehaved are brought to justice," he said.

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