Charter school’s closure after state count day could leave other schools without proper state funding

Signs for two schools stand in the ground outside of a building.
Signs for charter schools sit outside the Hawthorne Community Center, where the closing Vanguard Collegiate was located. Vanguard held an enrollment fair there on Sep. 29, 2023. (Amelia Pak-Harvey / Chalkbeat)

Sign up for Chalkbeat Indiana’s free daily newsletter to keep up with Indianapolis Public Schools, Marion County’s township districts, and statewide education news.

The closure of the Vanguard Collegiate charter school four days after the statewide “count day” used to determine each school’s funding could leave students’ new schools without accurate state funding. 

The 5-8 grade school, which operates out of the Hawthorne Community Center, announced last month that it will close Oct. 6 — four days after the state’s count day. The school struggled with declining enrollment that last stood at 43 students, according to the school’s authorizer. 

The Indiana Department of Education uses two count days each year — one in the fall and one in the spring — to determine how much funding each school should receive based on the number of students enrolled by that date. This year’s count date, Oct. 2, is later in the school year than usual. 

That funding is a baseline “foundation amount” per student, plus additional funding for students in specialized categories, such as English language learners, those who live in poverty, and special education students. Vanguard was slated to receive $9,072 per pupil this school year and $9,333 per pupil for the next year, according to estimates from the state’s Legislative Services Agency. 

Schools that close during the school year — such as Vanguard Collegiate and HIM By HER, another charter school that closed last year — do not continue to receive their monthly tuition support payments from the state following a closure, according to the Indiana Department of Education. Instead, those dollars remain in the state’s tuition support fund. 

However, if a student transfers to another school after Oct. 2, the receiving school will not get tuition support funding for that student for the first half of the school year either, according to the department. State law does allow school districts to petition the state board of education to adjust pupil counts if they believe the figures are unrepresentative of enrollment.

The former Vanguard students could, however, generate funding if they are included in their new schools’ enrollment count taken in the spring. 

Vanguard Collegiate did not respond to a request for comment on why it selected to close after count day. 

The school held an enrollment fair on Friday to help its students find new schools. 

James Betley, executive director for the Indiana Charter School Board that authorized the school, reported at the board’s meeting on Sep. 26 that about one-quarter of the families had been moved to new schools since the closure was announced. 

One challenge, he said, is that contact information for some families has been incorrect. 

“We’re trying to track down those addresses, we’re working with the school to try to find those kids,” he said. “And the hope is that with each passing day, we’ll get more and more kids enrolled in school.”

Amelia Pak-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Lawrence Township schools for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at apak-harvey@chalkbeat.org

The Latest

The ‘Youth Civic Hub,’ an online portal launched on Friday aims to increase youth civic engagement and electoral participation.

The board on Tuesday signaled to lawmakers that they want new laws to reform the state’s charter school system.

El distrito y la high school enfrentan una nueva audiencia con la Junta de Educación Estatal en mayo.

Un grupo influyente conservador ha elaborado una estrategia para desafiar una decisión histórica del Tribunal Supremo que protege el derecho de los niños indocumentados a asistir a la escuela pública.

With federal pandemic aid for schools expiring, the schools say the additional operating funding would be crucial for students and staff.

“I work in school nutrition to feed kids, not trash cans,” a dietitian testified at a legislative hearing last week.