Rep. Smith introduces bill providing relief to Gary community schools

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Vernon G. Smith

On January 15, 2021, State Representative Vernon G. Smith (D-Gary) announced House Bill 1299, which would appropriate from the state general fund the amount needed to pay loans made to the Gary Community School Corporation from the Common School Fund.

The purpose of HB 1299 is to free Gary Community School Corporation of debt when they get out from under state control. The estimated outstanding debt is approximately $36 million at the end of the 2021 Fiscal Year.

“When the local school corporation regains control of Gary Community Schools, they need a fresh start,” Smith said. “My bill seeks to secure a brighter future for its students, teachers and staff; something that is long overdue.

“When we talk about providing relief to Gary’s public schools, it goes much further than forgiving debt. Under current law, school corporations’ monthly state tuition support distributions are reduced to make payments on outstanding Common School Fund loans. By wiping the slate clean, we would be freeing up money to go toward operational costs so Gary doesn’t find itself in the same financial predicament again.

“I want to emphasize that I’m not proposing anything new with my bill – charter schools have been forgiven of their debts in the past. I’m just asking that Gary’s public schools get afforded that same opportunity. By protecting our public schools, we are protecting a vital institution in our community.”

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