In a move that has stunned charter school advocates, the Indiana Association of Public Charter Schools will shut down at the end of the year unless emergency funds can be found to save it, one of it’s board members confirmed today.
The organization, the state chapter of a national group, advocates for charter schools in the legislature and provides other services to member schools. If the organization shuts down it could leave charter schools without a direct lobbying voice or a resource for schools who need start up assistance or other basic services.
Six of the organization’s nine board members have resigned and the staff has been reduced from four to one. One of the remaining board members, Carey Dahncke, said he is hopeful the group can be reborn.
“The association has failed to hit some of its targets,” said Dahncke, who is executive director of Christel House Academy charter schools. “There is great concern about the ability to meet its debts.”
The news came as a shock to Derek Redelman, vice president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and a longtime charter school supporter.
“It’s disappointing,” he said. “I would certainly encourage the schools to get together, at least on an informal basis, to see how they can remain in touch with each other and represent their interests.”
Russ Simnick, the former executive director, left the group earlier this year for another job and was replaced on an interim basis by Kevin Davis, the co-founder of Options charter schools.
A wide array of organizations lobby lawmakers on behalf of education groups such as principals, private schools, urban schools and more. Without their association, charters would one of the very few school groups without active lobbying, Redelman said. Other charter-supporting groups, such as the chamber and School Choice Indiana, can help but that’s not ideal, he said.
“I would hope this will be a short-lived situation,” he said. “They may not emerge at the same level but I think something will emerge. They need that.”
The news will be shared with members at an annual charter school conference in Indianapolis next week. Among the services the group offers are discounts with vendors, network, legal aid, training and start up assistance.
“The organization overextended itself in hopes of landing the next grant,” Dahncke said. “That catches up with you after awhile.”
Dahncke said the association is seeking a foundation grant or individual donations to keep the organization afloat while it is reorganized.
“There needs to be a pretty clear plan to create a sustainable organization,” he said. “Moving forward, there will have to be some funders come in to support it.”
Nina Rees, president and CEO of National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said she hoped the Indiana chapter would continue.
“The Indiana Public Charter Schools Association has been very effective at increasing opportunities for Indiana’s children, most recently helping improve state law to support the expansion and growth of high-quality charters,” she said. “We are disappointed to hear of their current funding struggles, but hopeful they will find a sufficient solution to continue their work on behalf of Indiana’s families.”