Kindercamp unanimously approved by school board at Monday meeting

There were several housekeeping items on the agenda of the Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees meeting Monday, March 9, starting with a camp for incoming kindergarten students.

The 2020 Kindercamp was approved unanimously by the board, paving the way for youngsters new to school to spend some time getting a jump-start on reading and math fundamentals, as well as learning all the skills and procedures necessary to be successful in school.

Superintendent Chad Daugherty said the entire cost of the program will be paid for by United Way, with the exception of transportation.
“The program was started in 2015 at Lincoln Elementary and it went so well we then asked this program to be expanded to all the other elementary schools,” Daugherty said, adding about 200 children attend the camp each year.

The Kindercamp will run two weeks long for half days and is open to all children who are eligible to enter kindergarten in the 2020-21school year.

Daugherty added the camp will be held at nearly all of the elementary schools; however, because of the new construction, Roanoke Elementary’s participation hasn’t yet been decided.

The board also approved 7-0 a bond counsel agreement with law firm Ice Miller of Indianapolis for legal counsel regarding bonds.

Assistant Superintendent for Business and Classified Staff Scott Bumgardner said the school district had not previously had an agreement in writing with the firm. Board President Matt Roth added the agreement is not a contract, and HCCSC could terminate it at any time.
The 2020 Network Infrastructure E-Rate Project was also unanimously approved.

Bumgardner said the project runs around $180,000, with about 40 percent paid by the school district. He explained that E-Rate provides the rest in federal funding that is collected in universal service fees from phone bills, with the percentage amount determined by the number of free and reduced lunches in the county. That funding is used to help pay for the corporation’s Internet service and network infrastructure costs.
Another round of policy updates was presented for approval on its first reading. Most were revisions to already-existing policies, with one new policy added regarding crowd funding.

Perhaps the most impassioned discussion of the meeting was an item not officially on the agenda, when board member Reed Christiansen expressed his concerns about a proposed amendment to legislation in Indianapolis stating that a school corporation may distribute a proportionate share of the school corporation’s operations fund to a charter school. The governing body may also distribute money that is received as part of a tax levy collected under existing policy in the school corporation’s education fund to a charter school.

“I’m concerned about the precedent such an amendment would set, just looking at a continuing policy that really doesn’t benefit public education and benefits these charter schools,” he said. “It allows school corporations as a governing body to divert referendum funds to charter schools and away from school corporations. These charter schools are operated by for-profit corporations and it just really sets a dangerous precedent in allowing school corporations to best meet the needs and best meet the interests of the students.”

Christiansen cited a case in South Bend in which money that was distributed by public schools to a charter school based in Indianapolis that would open a location in South Bend. He said that move would have created tax hikes of around $21 million per year for eight years for South Bend taxpayers plus another $54 million for capital improvements. South Bend decided against pursuing funding the charter school.

“This would aversely affect our ability to educate children – it just takes money right out of the classroom,” he added. “I’m very opposed to this and I’ve expressed that and felt it was responsible to reach out to my elected officials and voice my concern.”

Daugherty said the amendment had language added at the last minute in committee has language that says governing corporations “may” fund charter schools – at the moment.

“What they want to try to do is it will turn from ‘may’ and go to ‘will’ and that would cripple a lot of school corporations,” he said. “It would not be good for any public institution.”

He added that school corporations are trying to get legislators to vote against such legislation, saying $68 million went to virtual charter schools and was not accounted for what he called “ghost” students.

Board Member Tim Allen encouraged the public to get involved and contact their elected officials to express their opinions about using public school funding for charter schools.

“It is unbelievable to me that the playing field is so unlevel,” he said. “They have no standards to uphold; we are required to uphold all of them. They don’t have to hardly answer any hard questions; they don’t have to accept students they don’t want, and we do. And yet their scores are still horrible, and they still get the funding, and it’s for-profit.”