When Indiana lawmakers reconvene for a special session May 14, they will reconsider a bill that would allow Ball State to assume responsibility of Muncie Community Schools.
An amendment to House Bill 1315, which was originally introduced in January, would shift oversight of MCS from an emergency manager to Ball State, allowing Ball State's Board of Trustees to appoint five of the seven MCS school board members.
Now, Indiana GOP leaders say all of HB 1315, including the Ball State amendment, will be considered at the upcoming special session.
Both House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Temp David Long feel given the poor financial decision making of MCS, Ball State running the district is the best option.
"All I had to hear was that a $10 million capital bond was used for operating expenses, and as a practicing bond lawyer, I didn't have to hear anything else," Bosma said during a press conference. "Fiscal irresponsibility is paramount, but also, fiscal irresponsibility translates to educational responsibility as well, so I'm enthused about Ball State."
Long said he, too, was enthusiastic about the possible transition.
"Most importantly, Muncie is also upside down fiscally and has rejected or refused to listen to years of requests and near mandates, not quite, from the legislators saying, 'You need to get your house in order,'" Long said during a press conference. "They continued to do the exact opposite. They've lost 2/3 of their kids within the last 20 years. I mean, the school district is in deep trouble."
President Geoffrey S. Mearns said in an email to the student body, this bill would again allow Ball State to partner with Muncie and change the trajectory of MCS.
"I continue to believe that this opportunity will enable us to mobilize our faculty, staff, and students across campus in new and innovative ways," Mearns said. "We are committed to the long-term success of MCS and Muncie."
However, the reactions weren't all good. Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler said it feels as if the general assembly is "more concerned with passing legislation than quality education."
"This is a very important piece of legislation that could have a tremendous impact on school systems across the state," Tyler said. "I can't imagine what it's like to be a teacher and not have a clue of what district management will look like."
Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said in a press release he supports Gov. Eric Holcomb's request to loan money to MCS and allow the emergency manager to continue throughout the remainder of the year.
"In that respect, the continued partnership and assistance of Ball State would be completely welcomed," Lanane said in the release. "I do not, however, support the state using its power to dismantle a locally-elected school board and disenfranchise the voters in my district."
Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Merrillville, agreed this bill would disenfranchise voters in both Muncie and Gary, Indiana.
“Republicans are side stepping dozens of legislative rules and public input in order to get their misguided priorities passed in just one day," Melton said in a press release. "Neither Muncie nor Gary are in an emergency situation, but instead are showing improvements. We do not need to pass a bill during legislative overtime that is not only unnecessary but will bypass the legislative process to eliminate the voice and the votes of the people."