Gary schools warned for offering enrollment incentives

State officials have put the Gary Community School Corp. on notice for violating Indiana law by offering enrollment incentives last fall.

The district posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offering $25 Visa gift cards to parents who referred students to successfully enroll in Gary schools, Northwest Indiana Times reported. The posts said those students also would be entered in a raffle to receive an iPad.

Indiana law explicitly prohibits any public, charter or private schools who receive state scholarship funding to offer incentives in the form “of any item that has monetary value, including cash or a gift card.”

Indiana's enrollment incentive statute was passed in 2015, after a similar promotion was offered by an Indianapolis charter school.

“We thought that was not the right way to encourage people to go to school,” said State Rep. Bob Behning, chair of the House Education Committee. “We wanted parents to make a choice based on academics, not on a prize being awarded.”

The incentive offer was posted online with a Sept. 13 deadline - the same day all Indiana districts were required to submit student enrollment totals to the Indiana Department of Education for verification.

State school funding is directly tied to student enrollment.

While Gary schools saw no increases in enrollment as a result of their social media posts, a review of social media posts will be conducted as a part of the state board's next routine audit of Gary schools.