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Holcomb to Support Ball State Takeover of Muncie Schools

Governor says district faces emergency; GOP legislative leaders adamant in calling for new management

INDIANAPOLIS - Governor Holcomb's special session agenda didn't include a proposed takeover of the Muncie schools by Ball State. But legislators are pushing forward with it, and Holcomb says he'll support it.

Holcomb's announcement of a special session called for an emergency loan to the Muncie schools -- he said then the session should focus on issues which have broad support, and put off the more controversial takeover plan till next year. He repeated the loan proposal when he officially summoned legislators back into session last week. But legislative Republicans have been adamant that Muncie's problems can't wait, and House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) and Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) said last week they'd gotten personal assurances of Holcomb's support.

In his first public comments since, Holcomb confirms he'll support the more dramatic step. He says the loan proposal was the "minimum threshold" for legislators to address a dire emergency in the school district. He says he believes legislators were "on the right road" in seeking new management for the district.

Holcomb says it would be different if legislators tried to start from scratch, but their plan is to vote on a bill Republican negotiators had agreed on but didn't get to the floor in time. Democratic negotiators were removed from the bill on the session's final day after refusing to go along with the proposal -- that's a standard end-of-session procedure.

Bosma has said Muncie forfeited any benefit of the doubt for solving its own problems when a 10-million-dollar construction bond was spent instead on operating costs. Democrats have fiercely opposed the bill. branding it a power grab and a disenfranchisement of voters. Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson), whose district includes part of Muncie, says his constituents feel "misled" by the revival of the plan after it seemingly died at the midnight deadline of the regular session.

The bill also abolishes the school board in Gary, strengthening the authority of an emergency manager already in place. 

Gov. Eric Holcomb (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)

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