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As Gary and Muncie School Takeovers Loom, Statehouse Discussions Turn to Details

Teachers' unions warn against plan to exempt Muncie from collective bargaining, while Gary parents want assurances of input

(INDIANAPOLIS) - The elimination of school boards in Gary and Muncie is looking more likely. The discussion at the statehouse is shifting to the terms of the takeover.

The bill giving Ball State control of the Muncie schools also frees the university from several state regulations, including collective bargaining with teachers. Muncie Teachers Association president Pat Kennedy protests teachers need to be partners in reforming the schools. She says teachers are "frightened and confused" about what's coming next, and warns some are already making inquiries about jobs in other school districts.

Some Gary school parents say the elimination of the school board there shuts out community input. Kendra Johnson says she saved up money for a bus ticket to attend a Senate committee hearing to make sure legislators heard from parents who would lose their representation in the decision-making process.

House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown says he's open to finding ways to preserve community input. But he rejects criticism from Gary and Muncie legislators that emergency consultants haven't had enough time to bring change. He says those consultants have lacked the authority to carry out their cost-cutting ideas. And he says Gary has been bleeding an average of 22-million dollars a year while ignoring basic needs, from maintenance to sending employees' withholding taxes to the IRS.

A Senate committee could vote next week.

House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)

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