Uncategorized | January 17, 2023

Our statement on IPS’ proposed operating referendum

The Indianapolis Public Schools’ (IPS) Board of School Commissioners appears ready to vote on an operating referendum that would be placed on the primary election ballot in May. The Mind Trust values our partnership with IPS and greatly respects the leadership of Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson and IPS board members. We have appreciated the opportunity to engage in numerous discussions with the district since the initial referendum plan was announced late last year. 

However, our mission and values require us to share our concerns regarding the negative consequences that this proposed referendum will have on thousands of students who attend public schools within the boundaries of IPS. 

The Mind Trust opposes any referendum that will widen existing public school funding disparities. Unfortunately, this proposed referendum does just that.

A 2020 study from the Center on Reinvention of Public Education showed that Indianapolis charter schools receive over $7,000 less per student than district-run schools. The proposed capital and operating referendum will increase that gap to well over $10,000 per student. 

Since December, school leaders, students, and parents have advocated for equitable sharing of the operating referendum proceeds to ensure that all public school students within IPS boundaries have access to the resources they need to succeed. Unfortunately, the district has chosen to largely disregard those calls.

IPS does not plan to share any proceeds from this tax increase with independent public charter schools, which serve much larger percentages of Black and low-income students than district-run IPS schools and include some of the top-performing schools in the state for students of color. 

Additionally, the district is choosing to fund its own students at different levels. In fact, IPS plans to allocate almost twice as much per-pupil operating referendum funding to direct-run schools compared to the district’s own innovation network schools, even while innovation network schools serve larger percentages of students of color and students from low-income families.

This referendum will have negative, long-term consequences for public charter and innovation network school students in Indianapolis, which currently total 23,700 students. Over fifty-eight percent of students who attend public schools within IPS boundaries attend a public charter or innovation network school. Most of them will receive no benefit at all. 

Within IPS boundaries, the 25 public schools that serve the largest percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch are charter and innovation network schools. Twenty of the 22 public schools within IPS boundaries that serve the largest percentage of Black students are charter schools and innovation network schools.

If taxpayers will be asked to pay for an operating and capital referendum that will total nearly one billion dollars, that referendum must benefit all public school students, not just some. We urge the board to pull this referendum now and work toward a long-term solution that benefits all public school students. 

Brandon Brown, Chief Executive Officer

Shannon Williams, Executive Vice President

Miriam Acevedo Davis, Board Member

Gary Borden, Board Member

David Harris, Board Member

Steven Jones, Board Member

Maggie Lewis, Board Member

Ann Murtlow, Board Member

Jim Schumacher, Board Member