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South Bend school board considers allowing Greene Township to join John Glenn Schools

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Justin Hicks
/
WVPE

The South Bend Community School Corporation is considering allowing Greene Township to join the John Glenn School Corporation instead. That’s after the issue has come up in the state legislature three times in recent years.

Many students in Greene Township already attend John Glenn schools through open enrollment, but the South Bend school board has never formally agreed to disannex the township.

Over the last few years, area lawmakers have introduced bills in the state legislature that would allow townships to leave their school corporations without board approval. Last year, a Black lawmaker was ‘booed’ off the House floor after he questioned whether the bills might be racially motivated.

The bill appeared again in the state Senate this year, but was withdrawn last month. To avoid further legislation, the two school corporations are working to resolve the issue locally.

The South Bend school board voted 6 to 0 Monday night to approve a resolution to explore a disannexation plan, with board member Leslie Wesley abstaining from the vote.

“This is not at the plan stage yet,” school attorney Brian Kubicki said. “This is really just an indication of a willingness on the part of the board to move forward with the process and engage.”

Disannexing the township would be a multi-step process with the potential to significantly impact the school corporation’s finances. At the board meeting Monday night, chief financial officer Kareemah Fowler said the removal of Greene Township could cost the district up to $1.56 million per year.

However, Kubicki said South Bend and John Glenn school officials have a “clear understanding” that referendum funds would have to be maintained even if Greene Township leaves the school corporation.

Disannexation would also raise issues with South Bend’s demographics — the school corporation is under a federal consent decree to desegregate. Any decisions that affect the racial makeup of the district have to be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“They would look to say ‘Why is that area moving?’” Kubicki said. “Some of the things from our standpoint — the relative size, the fact that students have already been allowed to move through school choice programs, as well as vouchers and charters — those all factor in a little differently.”

Ultimately, any disannexation plan would need approval from the Indiana Board of Education and the Northern District Court before it could move forward.

Both the John Glenn and South Bend school boards would then have to approve the plan.

Contact Gemma at gdicarlo@wvpe.org or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo.

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Gemma DiCarlo comes to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.