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Reps. Messer, Rokita Raise Concerns About Title I Funds for Indiana Charters

Two members of Congress from Indiana have questioned whether certain federal money is being distributed properly by the Indiana Department of Education.

In a Sept. 21 letter, U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, both Republicans, told Indiana Superintendent Glenda Ritz that they were worried about reports that Title I dollars for disadvantaged students were being inequitably distributed between traditional public schools and charter schools. Specifically, they note reports from earlier this month that at the same time charters in Indiana lost $2.3 million in Title I money for fiscal 2016, traditional public schools such as the Indianapolis districts saw a $1.6 million increase in that funding stream.

The two congressional representatives go on to write that for fiscal 2016, 22 of the 59 charter schools in Indiana received less than 85 percent of their Title I funding during the previous fiscal year. That fact, according to Messer and Rokita, appears to be in violation of Title I regulations, which include a "hold harmless" provision for such funds.

"This is particularly troubling given that no traditional public school corporation experienced similar cuts," they wrote to Ritz, a Democrat. Both Messer and Rokita are on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. 

A spokesman for the Indiana department, Daniel Altman, told the Indiana Business Journal that the fault lies with charters for submitting incorrect data, and also criticized Messer and Rokita for what he said was taking political advantage of the situation. 

The dispute between the two congressmen and Ritz is merely the latest feud between the state superintendent, who was elected in 2012, and Indiana Republicans. At various times, she has disagreed with state school board members, legislators, and Gov. Mike Pence about assessment, accountability, and control of the state board itself.  

Read the full letter from Messer and Rokita below:

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