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The number of charter schools in Indiana will reach 100 this fall.

The number of charter schools in Indiana will reach 100 this fall.

Alan Petersime

School choice group changes name, expands mission

School Choice Indiana, an organization that has advocated for charter schools and vouchers in Indiana since 2006, is transforming with a new name and a new mission.

The Institute for Quality Education formally launched late last month with event at its offices on Ohio Street that featured Gov. Mike Pence, more than a dozen state lawmakers and leaders of most of Indiana’s organizations working to make change in schools and education policy.

“Thanks to so many of you in this room today Indiana is the national leader in education reform in this country,” Pence told the group. “We’ve made incredible progress in our state in education. But with nearly 200,000 kids in our state who still find themselves in low-performing schools we are absolutely determined as an administration to bring renewed energy to this cause.”

Fred Klipsch, chairman of the new group, said it will have three goals: Improving communications to support reform, promoting school choice and expanding those efforts to also focus on change in traditional public schools.

“Whether its funding, teacher evaluation, accountability, waivers, you can name the topics — they go on and on — somewhere there needs to be a voice of reason on what’s fair for children and resources to back that up,” Klipsch said.

The organization will push to make it easier for charter schools and private schools to expand in Indiana, he said. It will add a new focus on D- and F-rated schools.

“Those schools need help too,” Klipsch said. “They’re really not the enemy. On the other hand is, there is no quick fix either.”

Indiana needs a variety of strategies to improve those schools, he said.

“The reality of all of those public schools that have an inadequate culture, and probably have inadequate leadership, is they may have in many cases great teachers,” Klipsch said. “They are also trapped in that environment. We need to do something about that as a state.”

The institute will be more aggressive in communications to counter the critics of school change who have loudly protested some of the ideas they promote, Klipsch.

“There is a voice out there about what’s wrong with choice, what’s wrong with accountability, what’s wrong with performance, and why things should all be treated equal,” he said. “We don’t agree with any of those points. If not, then we have to fill the void and have our attitude and opinion on all of those topics too.”