School “Transformation Zones” The Subject Of Legislation

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February 5, 2015 — Ray Steele, Network Indiana — The state could intervene in more low-performing schools under a bill before the House Education Committee.

HB 1638 would allow the grouping of schools intro “transformation zones” — for example, a school that has consistently received a D or an F from the state along with the schools that feed into it. Those zones could be managed by the school district or by a manager appointed by the State Board of Education if the board did not approve of the district‘s turnaround plan. Another major change would be the ability of the state to intervene if a school received a D or an F for four consecutive years. Right now, a school has to receive an F for six straight years before the state intervenes.

House Education Chairman Bob Behning (R, Indianapolis) wrote the bill and says transformation zones have proven effective in Evansville schools. Behning also believes they would work better than the current state takeover model.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz and the teacher‘s unions oppose the bill for a number of reasons. It would allow schools that are in transformation zones to use non-unionized teachers, much like charter schools.

“We would like to see the union restored in this, rather than taking out the union and exempting teachers not only from bargaining rights, but the right to organize at all,” said Susan Sloan with the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

The bill also would allow the creation of new feeder schools for failing schools, much as charter schools are allowed to do, which opponents say could reduce overall education funding to school districts.  “(School districts) have (turnaround) plans already, but they can‘t really implement those plans to a full degree because they don‘t have the dollars to make that happen,” said Rep. Vernon Smith (D, Gary).

Indianapolis Public Schools are working on a version of transformation zones to address low-performing schools thanks to a bill approved by lawmakers last year, and IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee says other school districts should have the same chance.


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