African American Coalition of Indianapolis Supports IPS Referendums
The African American Coalition of Indianapolis (AACI) recognizes that the Indianapolis Public Schools district (IPS) is seeking support for operating and capital referendums totaling approximately $252 million. We support passage of the referendum and believe IPS and its students should receive broad community support.
The last referendum, known in the community as the “air conditioning” referendum was 10 years ago. Since the last IPS referendum, the district lost more than $40 million annually due to changes in the state school funding formula. Over 20% of properties in the school district are exempt from paying property taxes. We also note that some of the same TIFS that have spurred economic development downtown may have come at the expense of IPS, as revenue that could have gone to schools went back to finance downtown development. The new reality of school funding is that IPS and other school districts may need to request financing referendums periodically. IPS is not alone in seeking referendum approval; there have been nearly 20 operating or capital referendums in other township school corporations in Marion County since 2008.
In a district that has a majority-minority student population, IPS has been able to diversify its recruitment of teachers resulting in one-third of new IPS teachers being people of color. They have also provided teacher raises while managing against rising healthcare costs. In addition, IPS reduced office expenses by 32.5% on a per pupil basis. We also note that many IPS buildings were constructed in 1955.
Often missed in the discussion about the need for the referendum is the important fact, IPS is growing and students are graduating. IPS has over 31,000 students—its highest student count in three years. Graduation rates have dramatically improved and now outpace state high school graduation rates. And while many school districts across the state struggled with ISTEP, this referendum will support quality instruction for students.
We support the referendum though we remain concerned about the disappointing student results on ISTEP, specifically for children of color. We recognize this was a phenomenon that occurred across the state of Indiana and needs immediate attention. We believe our member organizations and other community groups, parents, faith communities and businesses share a responsibility to assist IPS by providing creative out-of-school programs to support reading, math and other related academic and social support areas, as well as the volunteers to support these efforts. In addition, while we believe IPS should be held accountable for improving scores, we also note that the district has traditionally excelled in growth measurements with respect to student performance on standardized tests. We hope the media tells the full story of IPS performance on standardized testing.
AACI will not abandon our children, the future of the city, by failing to support this referendum. To our mind, the dollars requested for this referendum are low relative to the highest aspirations we should have for our children. We trust that IPS administration and board of commissioner leadership will be stewards of the resources given and continue in the positive trajectory of the district. We expect excellence in academic performance on standardized tests and other appropriate metrics, an IPS staff that protects our children, educators committed to affirming the potential of our youth while disrupting the school to prison pipeline, as well as the continued right-sizing of facilities for an evolving district.
A vote for the IPS referendum is a vote to support the future of our city.
100 Black Men of Indianapolis