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General News / IPBS

Fort Wayne charter school withdraws application after facing strong opposition

Fort Wayne Superintendent Mark Daniel speaks out against the charter application for Fort Wayne Preparatory Academy during a public hearing at the Allen County Public Library on Monday, April 18, 2022.
(Eric Weddle/WFYI News)
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Fort Wayne Superintendent Mark Daniel speaks out against the charter application for Fort Wayne Preparatory Academy during a public hearing at the Allen County Public Library on Monday, April 18, 2022.

A group behind a proposed charter school that met strong opposition from the Fort Wayne Community Schools’ elected board and leaders withdrew its application to open a school in the district’s boundary.

The Indiana State Charter School Board was scheduled to vote on the application for Fort Wayne Preparatory Academy during its public meeting Thursday.

The withdrawal came days after the Fort Wayne Schools superintendent, teachers and community members packed a public hearing at the county library to voice concerns over the school’s budget, location and partnership with Ohio-based education management company Accel Schools.

The debate over the proposed school comes amid new disputes between school districts and charter schools. South Bend and Carmel Clay districts both face allegations from groups organizing charter schools that they did not follow an Indiana law that would allow a charter school to lease or buy an unused school building.

Charter schools are public schools that are granted a contract to operate by one of several authorizers in Indiana. Charter schools receive direct per-student funding similar to traditional school corporations and are eligible to receive additional per-student grants. But they don’t receive property tax funds to cover transportation or facilities.

Courtney Harritt, spokesperson for Accel Schools and Fort Wayne Preparatory Academy, said the decision to withdraw the application was not in response to the April 18 hearing.

“We recognize there can be opposition to charter schools, but it has been our experience that parents and caretakers tend to appreciate having choice in schools,” Harritt said in an email. “We are in favor of each family making the best decision for each of their children.”

Harritt said they still have interest in operating in Fort Wayne. The K-8 school would offer an "individualized learning" curriculum through in-person classroom and virtual instruction.

“We decided to withdraw our application to give us time to work with interested stakeholders in further defining and addressing the needs of the community,” she said.

Harritt said they are not currently looking for another authorizer in Indiana to grant a charter for the proposed school.

Even though the application for the preparatory school was withdrawn, it can be submitted again to the state charter school board or another authorizer.

Fort Wayne Superintendent Mark Daniel was opposed to the charter application because the district could potentially receive less state funding if current students chose to attend the proposed school instead.

"One of the negative aspects when you have an additional school, public school come into your neighborhood, there are limited resources," Daniel said during the public hearing last week. "Those limited resources are in regards to how do we cover the needs of our children who have special needs and our [English learning language] students.”

Daniel said the district does not have enough state and federal funds to cover the needs of those and other students.

The Indiana State Charter School Board will meet for the first time in person since the pandemic began at 9 a.m. Thursday in Conference Room A at the Indiana Government Center South in Indianapolis. The meeting will be live-streamed on YouTube.

The board will vote on applications for 21st Century Charter School in Gary and Paramount School of Excellence in Lafayette.

Contact WFYI education managing editor Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.

Copyright 2022 WFYI Public Radio. To see more, visit WFYI Public Radio.