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IN House Dem leader wants answers to A-F grade changes

Indiana House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) says the state Inspector General’s investigation into the school grade changing scandal involving former State Superintendent Tony Bennett is taking too long.

Multiple investigations began shortly after it was uncovered in late July that former Indiana Superintendent Tony Bennett altered school accountability letter grades in 2012 after an Indianapolis charter school – a favorite of Bennett’s team – would have received a mediocre rating.  An independent review of the school accountability system – prompted by Republican legislative leaders – produced a report in four weeks.  But so far there’s been little discussion of the Indiana Inspector General’s investigation.  

Pelath says he wants to know why there aren’t any answers and when those answers might be coming.  He says the delay raises questions about whether the Inspector General’s office is too focused on relatively trivial cases.

“Do they believe it’s their role to hold other statewide elected officials accountable or is it simply their role to find out whether some state employee erred in leaving his ex-wife on his insurance forms?”

Inspector General David Thomas says he understands people’s interest in the Bennett investigation.

“And we’re moving as quickly as we can.  We want to be very thorough and we will conclude it as quickly as we can.”

Pelath says he hopes the investigation uncovers the motive behind the grade change, which he believes wasn’t part of the independent review’s report.

When asked about the pace of the investigation, Governor Mike Pence says there is little he can offer.

“I’m sure that they’re going to do their work in a thorough and fair-minded way," he says, "and produce the kind of information that will allow us and policymakers to make the kind of decisions that will allow us to preserve and improve our A to F grading system.”

Pelath says the grading system investigation needs to be the Inspector General’s primary focus and suggests the office may need more staff or authority to complete their work. 

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.
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