Indiana lawmakers nix plan to let charter schools share local funding increases

Charter opponents notched a rare victory Monday as Indiana lawmakers moved away from a proposal for charter schools to share in local property tax dollars — but the win could be fleeting.

With little debate, a panel of lawmakers removed a proposal for school districts to split property taxes with charter schools within their boundaries. The measure would have given charter schools access to some local funding for the first time. Charter advocates argue that public schools in Indiana are funded unequally, since traditional public school districts collect both state and local funding, but charter schools only receive state dollars.

House education leader Bob Behning, an Indianapolis Republican and a charter supporter, did not give a reason for striking the proposal. But one lawmaker indicated that he’s interested in reviving the discussion.

“I do want to make sure that we can probably put it together in such a way that it’s a little bit more feasible to fund a significant number of kids’ educations,” said Rep. Jack Jordan, R-Bremen.

Democrats and some educators had criticized the provision as taking funding from traditional public school districts, which are increasingly relying on referendums that ask voters to approve increases in their taxes. Indianapolis Public Schools, for example, successfully won property tax increases from voters in November in order to raise $272 million in additional funding over eight years.

The referendum-sharing proposal had been in a larger bill that advanced Monday about school districts making unused buildings available to charter schools — a protracted debate centered around the future of the now-vacant Broad Ripple High School.