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Controversial bill passes putting Muncie teachers’ rights in jeopardy

A controversial bill passed the House and Senate Monday during a one-day special legislative session. The bill addresses Gary and Muncie schools and any public school district designated to be in fiscal distress in the future.  

HB 1315 originally would have set up a fiscal dashboard for schools and the process by which designated in distress received state assistance. There was also vague language that would allow for state educational institutions to establish laboratory schools or school districts.

On Jan. 17, this language morphed into a Ball State University takeover of Muncie Community Schools. It became apparent the plans had been under development for weeks, likely months — all behind closed doors. As it turned out, none of the senators or representatives who were elected to represent Muncie were asked to offer any meaningful input on behalf of the communities they represent as the bill was conceptualized.

As the regular session progressed, very few substantive amendments were accepted — particularly regarding the Muncie schools takeover.

As passed, the bill authorizes an emergency manager, assigned to the school district, the ability to lay off up to five percent of the teachers mid-year, creating unnecessary hardships to kids, parents and staff.

For Muncie schools, the consequences are even broader. The final bill dissolves Muncie’s locally-elected school board, and makes it an advisory board to a new governing body appointed by Ball State University, of which only four of seven members must reside in Muncie.

Operations of Muncie schools will be turned over to the new Ball State-appointed board, and in exchange, the label “in fiscal distress” will be removed from Muncie schools. The new board will have the power to operate the district outside of most education laws on the books applying to other districts. Many of these laws were enacted to educate, serve and protect kids.

Collective bargaining rights for Muncie teachers are also unclear. Ball State will have the power to recognize an exclusive representative under the collective bargaining laws, and only for the school buildings that its school board authorizes, but is not required to recognize an exclusive representative.

Ball State’s president has not yet indicated if Ball State will grant Muncie teachers the same rights as other public-school teachers in the state.

For the Muncie school community, the bill will take effect July 1. By then, Ball State will have adopted its resolution to take over the Muncie Schools and will have appointed its new school board. ISTA will continue to advocate for Muncie teachers with leaders at Ball State. We believe recognizing the collective voice of Muncie teachers will benefit the community of Muncie, its schools, its school employees, and central to it all, its kids.