Gary mayor exploring charter school option
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org/648-3154 July 29, 2012 4:58PM
Karen Freeman-Wilson answers a reporter's question just before making her victory speech at her election night party Tuesday at the Genesis Center in Gary. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 22, 2013 4:12PM
GARY — Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson is weighing whether to take advantage of a new state law allowing her to sponsor charter schools.
Legislation enacted last year allows mayors of first- or second-class cities, like Gary, to sponsor charter schools. Until last year, only the mayor of Indianapolis could authorize a charter.
Such a move would represent a quantum policy change in the city where school and city politics rarely intersect.
Freeman-Wilson said as a charter sponsor, she could ensure more cooperation between the Gary Community School Corp. and the charter schools in the city.
The mayor said she’ll make her final decision on becoming a charter sponsor early next year.
“I don’t have the education expertise, as far as what goes into a good charter school, so that would require some expertise and I’m loathe to add more staff,” she said.
In Indianapolis, the mayor created a charter schools board to advise the mayor and review applications. The mayor also created an Office of Education Innovation overseen by a charter schools director.
The upside, however, is Freeman-Wilson said she could control the quality of charter schools coming into the city.
In her first six month in office, Freeman-Wilson has shown a keen interest in education in the city.
“Education is extremely important, I always came to office with the thought that we would have to weigh in with the partners,” she said.
To become a sponsor, Gary would have to apply with the Indiana Department of Education and be approved.
Freeman-Wilson said she discussed the idea of becoming a charter sponsor with new Gary Community School Corp. Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt, and she supported the move.