Lawmaker introducing state takeover of Muncie Community Schools

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MUNCIE, Ind. – An amendment will be introduced Monday morning that would allow the state to take over Muncie Community Schools, CBS4 learned Sunday night.

State Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) will formally introduce the amendment during the House Ways and Means committee, his spokesperson confirmed, which would essentially hand over financial and academic control of the district to an appointed emergency manager, similar to SB 567 which is currently being considered by the same committee.

State Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie) said she was made aware of the move on Friday and quickly spent the weekend huddling with school leaders, school board members and city leaders, many of whom plan to attend Monday’s hearing and demand answers.

“This is absolutely the last option we ever would’ve considered,” Debbie Feick said Sunday night, the school board president. “The impact of being a state controlled school district is far reaching in terms of economic development, appraised real estate values…so, communities really feel in a huge way the results of state control.”

The move comes after several tumultuous weeks for the district, including stalled negotiations with the teachers’ union, the resignation of the district’s chief financial officer and growing debate about how to address millions of dollars in debt.

“We have, despite public scrutiny, we have really tried to make those tough decisions and change the way we’ve done business,” Feick said.

Late Friday, an independent fact finder hired by the Indiana Educational Employment Relations board sided with Muncie teachers in regards to pay cuts the district has been attempting to make.

“MCS’s plan to both reduce salaries and increase insurance costs to teachers appear to present a potentially catastrophic situation for teachers,” stated the fact finder.

MCS has been advocating for cuts of teacher’s salaries up to 23 percent. They also want teachers to pay more for their insurance. Teachers were concerned if MCS won, that they would be forced to leave the community for higher pay.

The amendment will be presented at a 10 a.m. hearing Monday.

The measure would need approval from the full House and Senate along with Gov. Eric Holcomb.

*<em>A previous version of this story stated that Gary schools had already been taken over by the state. There is a proposal currently being considered by the House Ways and Means Committee (SB567) which would appoint an emergency manager to assist the “distressed” school if the measure is approved.

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