UPDATE (11/15/2023): Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita is challenging the court’s decision to exempt Indianapolis Public Schools from the dollar law.
INDIANAPOLIS — A Marion County Judge has ruled that the Indianapolis Public Schools can move forward with the sale of two buildings because it is exempt from a portion of the Indiana Code known as the dollar law.
According to a ruling, filed Monday in Marion County Superior Court, Heather Welch, the judge for the Marion County Superior Court No. One, said that the district’s arrangement with Innovation Network Charter Schools permits the district to be exempted from the dollar law under the levy exemption.
The ruling also said that the state cannot interfere with the proposed sales of the two buildings at issue by way of the dollar law. The two buildings include Raymond Brandes School 65, located at 4065 Asbury St., and Francis Bellamy School 102, located at 9501 E 36th Pl.
According to previous reports, the Board of School Commissioners for the city of Indianapolis filed a lawsuit against the Indiana Attorney General and the Indiana State Board of Education, asking a judge to rule that the dollar law does not apply to IPS in the sale of the two buildings.
The question surrounding the lawsuit is whether or not IPS can sell the two buildings to non-charter schools or if the district must offer them to charter schools under the dollar law. The law, according to court documents, was first enacted in 2019, giving applicable charter schools the right to purchase buildings no longer being used for educational purposes by districts for $1.
This law was enacted after Marion County voters approved a 2018 operating referendum of $220 million for IPS. In 2021, a resolution was passed by the district’s board, directing a portion of the 2018 referendum funding to be distributed to Innovation Network Charter Schools in an amount up to $500 per in-district resident student until the end of 2026.
The state challenged the district on this, stating in a letter that the district is subject to the dollar law in these sales, stating that the 2021 agreement did not satisfy the requirement of the law and its 2023 amendment. The documents read that charter schools expressed interest in the two campuses.
“The question before the court is whether IPS’ current revenue sharing agreement with (Innovation Network Charter Schools) satisfies the necessary requirements to be subject to the Levy Exemption with respect to the pending building sales,” the ruling reads.” …Because it is already distributing funds to at least one (but many in reality) charter school(s) using funds that were obtained through a referendum… the Court finds that IPS is currently exempted from the dollar law under the levy exemption for as long as it continues its distributions under the current regime.”
However, the documents said that the ruling was because of the district’s “unique timing” of the prior referendum and its decision to distribute funds to charter schools.
“If IPS were to extend its current deal or begin distributing funds from a referendum held after May 10, 2024, it would be subject to the reporting requirements,” the documents read.
In a statement provided to FOX59/CBS4 from IPS, officials said:
We are grateful for the judge’s ruling, reaffirming the district’s ability to make decisions about the reuse of Indianapolis Public Schools facilities. We’re proud that we have already worked with organizations and community members so that, along with a number of possible options, some of these buildings will serve students with mental health needs, deaf students, and adult learners. We continue to strive to not only be a good partner but also be fiscally responsible with the resources that have been entrusted to us by our community. IPS continues to work toward the sustainability of our school district and this outcome supports our ability to keep Rebuilding Stronger.IPS officials