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Implications of controversial bill could have statewide impact on public schools

A controversial bill is moving closer to becoming law. The bill concerns Gary and Muncie schools, and any public school district designated to be in fiscal distress in the future.  

Despite lack of transparency and trust in working together from the onset, we have a bill that would:

  • Dissolve Muncie’s locally-elected school board, and make 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. Those elected school board members will now be members of this advisory board until their terms expire and the advisory board is also dissolved. In four years, two positions of the appointed board will become at-large elected positions to be filled by Muncie residents.
  • Turn over the operations of Muncie schools to a new Ball State-appointed board, and in exchange, the label “in fiscal distress” would be removed from Muncie schools. The new board would have the power to run the district outside of nearly every education law on the books that applies to other districts. These laws were, by and large, enacted to educate, serve and protect kids.
  • End teacher collective bargaining rights for Muncie teachers, unless the new Ball State-appointed board recognizes an exclusive representative under the collective bargaining laws, and only for the schools that the board authorizes.
  • Enable an emergency manager to lay off up to 5 percent of the teachers mid-year in any other district that is labeled as being in fiscal distress in the future.

This bill has been under development for weeks, likely months — all behind closed doors. None of the senators or representatives who were elected to represent Gary or Muncie were asked to offer any meaningful input on behalf of the communities they represent.

On top of the lack of transparency, the state appointed emergency managers of both districts have been in place for less than a year. The premature actions of this bill come on the heels of the Muncie emergency manager making progress in turning around the finances of Muncie schools.

Progress has been achieved in working together with the Muncie Teachers Association. Our hope is that, if passed, Ball State would respect the collective voice of Muncie teachers and pledge to work with them. It would be to the benefit of the community of Muncie, its schools, and most importantly, its kids.