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State money taken from Gary schools for Roosevelt special ed students

Updated: February 4, 2013 2:53PM



The State Board of Education ruled Wednesday that $176,939 will be diverted from the Gary Community School Corp.’s state funding to pay for special education services for students at the Roosevelt College and Career Academy, a privately run turnaround school.

The money will be diverted from Jan. 1 to June 30 of this year.

The school district opposed the action, approved unanimously at Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting.

It marked the final meeting for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, the first school chief to champion the takeover of schools based on state accountability results. Democrat Glenda Ritz, who opposes school takeovers, defeated Bennett in November. He leaves office Jan. 11 and will move to Florida where he’s been named the state’s education commissioner.

Gary Schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt attended Wednesday’s meeting and expressed disappointment in the board’s decision.

“We don’t have a problem turning over monies that we have to do, we just want to research it to make sure it’s correct,” Pruitt said.

In seeking a continuance, the school district’s attorney Tracy Coleman said the district had insufficient time to review a state special education count done earlier in December.

Pruitt said the district received notice of the money being withheld Dec. 21 and didn’t receive a detailed spreadsheet until Dec. 31. Pruitt said the district wanted to research the findings on the number of special education students at Roosevelt, now operated by EdisonLearning Inc., under a four-year contract with the state.

Even a state education official seemed confused when asked for the total number of special education students at Roosevelt. The official pegged the total between 77 and 155 students, based on the possibility that some students fall into more than one special education category.

Pruitt said Gary is watching a lawsuit recently won by the Indianapolis Public Schools, which sued the State Board of Education for miscounting the number of students at four schools taken over by the state last year. Pending an appeal, it means about $6 million could be returned to IPS.

In Gary’s case, the district lost about $2.8 million when the state took over Roosevelt after the school received a state accountability grade of F for six straight years.

Pruitt said the state estimated Roosevelt’s enrollment at 1,034 students last year when it determined its funding. Pruitt said the school has just 678 students. “We’re hopeful those monies can be returned,” she said.

Beginning this month, the 2012 enrollment count taken in September will determine how much money EdisonLearning will receive to operate Roosevelt.



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