The Coup of Muncie Schools is Nearly Complete

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By: Todd Smekens

Muncie, Indiana BLOG – I just had to write a few words about the “Ball State takeover” or coup of Muncie Community Schools, otherwise known as House Bill 1315 authored by Rep. Tim Brown from Crawfordsville who orchestrated the original state takeover of Muncie Community Schools (MCS) last year via an emergency manager.

Let me first say, as of today’s date, neither the previous CFO (Mark Burkhart) or superintendent (Tim Heller) who allowed the use of $10 million in restricted funds back in 2014/15 has been held accountable. I do know the FBI has reviewed files at MCS, but no arrests have been made. It took Steve Baule, and three CFO’s to discover the misspent funds meaning the school board had no idea the funds were misused until several years after it was abused.

The fact our biased newspaper hasn’t pointed this out, nor has our emergency manager held these gentlemen accountable, is a joke. Instead of holding these past administrators responsible, the state will loan MCS the missing $10 million. From House Bill 1315:

Permits the DUAB to recommend to the state board of finance that the state board of finance make an interest free loan to the Muncie Community Schools.

While MCS needs to make repairs to its buildings, the primary reason to bail out the $10 million misspent is to maintain Indiana’s overall credit rating. The 2014 bond funds were placed in a restricted fund per the agreement with bondholders. Mark Burkhart, the former CFO, then spent those dollars on general fund expenses like vendors, teacher salaries, and benefits. It’s called theft.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers blame the Muncie community and our democratic form of governing for the problems within our public school system. Remember the day when conservatives were staunch advocates of “local control.” The politicians in Indianapolis resist any laws written by our federal government which usurps their power or control. We’ll get no help from those puppets.

Here is the other clause specific to MCS:

Requires the DUAB to make a request for information on whether a state educational institution, educational organization, or other community group has an interest in partnering with the Muncie Community Schools. Allows state educational institutions to establish one or more laboratory schools within a school district or establish a laboratory school district by agreement with a school corporation. Allows the state educational institution to use property of the school corporation for a laboratory school.

Just to be clear, the state controls Ball State University. The state also manages DUAB and the emergency managers. Therefore, the state dictated the terms of sale of the Northside Middle School property to BSU. It was a conflict of interest, yet as far as I know, no legal action has been initiated by our local board.

Most recently, our local rag published a long-winded opinion piece by Ivy Tech leaders justifying the takeover. If you read it carefully, it’s all about work readiness for what employers in the area need.

According to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s most recent College Readiness Report, as many as 42 percent of the Muncie Central High School graduates are not pursuing training or education at a college or university in their first year after leaving high school. Enhancing the partnership between Ball State, Muncie Central High School, and Ivy Tech will focus attention on these recent graduates who don’t have plans for education or training after high school. This focus will help us meet the needs of area employers, increase the number of families earning wages above the statewide median income, and help to create a thriving, vibrant Muncie.

I emphasized the last sentence due to its high scores on Muncie Voice’s bullshit meter – this dose of propaganda deserves a 4.0.

Indiana has been one of the leading states to crush both public and private sector unions. State laws have been written to benefit employers – not workers. As a result of this pro-business environment, our median incomes have been stuck in the 1990’s. The state has a horrible track record of helping employees, yet they blame an impoverished community like Muncie, and it’s school system for those results. It’s called scapegoating.

Over 75% of Muncie students qualify for free or reduced lunches. Our schools have to prepare breakfast meals for many students and offer meals during the summer as well because the median incomes in Muncie qualify for state assistance. To be eligible for state assistance (welfare) able-bodied adults have to work, and they do. But guess what?

When the average wage paid by our local retail and service driven employers are $10.00 or under, a worker can put in the hours but still live in poverty. What has our state done to elevate wages for workers?

Nothing.

By making Indiana a “right to work” state and eliminating collective bargaining, guess what?

The truth is our state has been working to suppress employee wages so they can attract businesses to Indiana. Somehow, amazingly, if they take control of our school system, future employees will benefit with “higher than average wages.” Sorry, but their logic is flawed or they’re hypocrites.

In case you’ve been asleep for the past two decades, the state already took over funding for the schools and starved Hoosier school districts. Mitch Daniels alone withheld $330 million to public schools. They created the problems within the school districts, and Muncie’s school board and former administrators reacted too slow. The teacher’s union deserves blame as well.

And state lawmakers wonder why we have a teacher shortage. The treatment of teachers has caused additional problems for administrations. College students aren’t interested in becoming teachers because they see how teachers are treated while attending their local school system.

Don’t take my word for it. The U.S. News Report ranks Indiana’s education at #27 nationally with high school grad rates at #11. So what is dragging down our national rank?

Our two-year graduation rate (Ivy Tech) is dead last at #50. Our four-year graduation rates rank #25 with a student debt ranking of #37.

Therefore, our state lawmakers, Ball State president, and Ivy Tech president can talk about lofty ideals, but it’s ALL propaganda. The facts present a different story. If our local newspaper weren’t a lapdog for BSU, they’d make a strong case against the takeover in support of local control. Instead, we get one piece of propaganda after another supporting this fascist corporate-state takeover. Based on our national rankings, our public K-12 schools are doing just fine, but our higher education institutions are poor performers. Makes you wonder where our public schools would be if they weren’t intentionally being starved of funds and witnessing funds being diverted to charters, private and religious schools.

So once again, lawmakers create a problem by passing legislation which strips money from local schools making it difficult for local teachers and administrators. School districts in affluent communities thrive while more impoverished areas like Muncie and Gary suffer. Then, the same lawmakers propose solutions for the problems they create by using strategies from the same ALEC (Koch-affiliated) handbook.

I hope someone can follow the logic because it makes no sense to me. State takeovers via universities appear to be phase 2 of the privatization of public schools where they become nothing more than work training vehicles for the corporate sector. I wonder if the schools will still teach students about unions and collective bargaining or will those topics be banned from lesson plans?

One last side note – now we know why the local philanthropists didn’t bail out the school system as several local leaders thought might happen. They must have known this was coming, especially since Tom Bracken is a Ball State Trustee.

HB 1315 has cleared its first hurdle, and I give it a 95% chance of passing the Senate. The coup is nearly complete, and soon our local schools will become nothing but laboratories for the Koch brother minions at Ball State University and our statehouse capitol.

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Journalist, entrepreneur, publisher and ethical leader with a passion for truth seeking. Enjoy cycling, yoga, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter. Wellness advocate who practices servant style leadership. Google

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