In January 2016, charter authorizer Grace College and Seminary, of Winona Lake, Indiana, granted a charter to Seven Oaks Classical School in Monroe County.
In April 2017, the Indiana Coalition for Public Education–Monroe County sued the state of Indiana in federal court over its practice of delegating authority to religious entities (in this case, charter authorizer Grace College and Seminary) for the spending of public money. We felt, and continue to feel, that having a religious college able to decide how public funds were spent in our community violated the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. We also objected to Grace College as a religious entity collecting up to 3% of the tuition support going to the schools it authorizes, as charter authorizers are entitled by law to do.
Our case was never heard on its merits. The judge assigned to our case decided this past fall that we did not have standing to bring the case. (Here’s Wikipedia’s definition of standing: it “is the term for the ability of a party to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged to support that party's participation in the case.”) At the time we filed suit, our group included parents of students in the Monroe County Community School Corporation and Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation; teachers in both school corporations; and community members who were neither parents nor teachers, but who were invested in the health of our public schools.
The state of Indiana has now asked the judge to require us to reimburse the state for its costs in the suit, $1,491, and the judge has agreed.
Our group’s funds are contributed by our members, overwhelmingly Monroe County residents, to support advocacy for public education—and the state is taking those funds to pay for its defense of privatizing decisions about public money. Something is wrong with this picture. If you believe in the principles we are fighting for and would like to contribute to the lawsuit charges from the state, we would appreciate any amount you can give.
Thank you for joining our fight. Our communities and our kids deserve real public schools.