GOP donor's charter school grade changed

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Emails obtained by The Associated Press show Bennett and his staff scrambled last fall to ensure influential donor Christel DeHaan’s school received an ‘‘A,’’ despite poor test scores in algebra that initially earned it a ‘‘C.’’

‘‘They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work,’’ Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12 email to then-chief of staff Heather Neal, who is now Gov. Mike Pence’s chief lobbyist.

The emails, which also show Bennett discussed with staff the legality of changing just DeHaan’s grade, raise unsettling questions about the validity of a grading system that has broad implications. Indiana uses the A-F grades to determine which schools get taken over by the state and whether students seeking state-funded vouchers to attend private school need to first spend a year in public school. They also help determine how much state funding schools receive.

A low grade also can detract from a neighborhood and drive homebuyers elsewhere.

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