MUNCIE — State Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, who led the charge for a state takeover of Muncie Community Schools, has authored a wide-ranging bill that would impact financially struggling school districts.
In addition to creating a watch list of school corporations that show signs of fiscal distress — and other provisions affecting all Indiana schools — House Bill 1315 also specifically addresses the crisis in Muncie.
The proposed law, which has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee chaired by Brown, includes these provisions applying only to Muncie:
• Permits the state's Distressed Unit Appeal Board (DUAB) to recommend that the Indiana State Board of Finance make an interest-free loan to the deficit-ridden Muncie district. The current deficit at MCS is about $12 million. The state would forgo interest payments, which usually range from 1 percent for technology loans to more than 5 percent for construction loans. Muncie needs the loan to make some $10 million of building repairs.
• Permits DUAB to issue a request for information to consider the factors involved in, the feasibility of, or the potential consequences of the Muncie district's partnering with a state educational institution, educational organization or other community group. The identity of a person submitting a response would be a public record but the response would be confidential.
• Permits DUAB to prepare a request for proposals for the Muncie district to partner with a state educational institution, educational organization or other community group.
Referring to community forums attended by Ball State University President Geoffrey S. Mearns this past fall, Brown said, "I think there is interest at Ball State in what the city of Muncie looks like and what the Muncie Community School Corporation looks like. I know there has been a little more discussion … and the community forums started some of these discussions."