Stand for Indianapolis Public Schools: Politics, Policy, and Our Kids


The Backstory.

Indianapolis Public Schools–it’s no secret–has been the center of controversy for some time. Located in the state’s capital, it has been the focus of reform for at least the last several years, but as I understand it, even longer than that. Glenda Ritz is the current Superintendent of Public Education, but wasn’t “supposed to” win over Tony Bennett. But, she did, and it doesn’t really matter, because the Indiana School Board Association isn’t supposed to have more Republicans than Democrats on it, but it does, including some major players in the turnover of Indianapolis Public Schools through their connection to the Mind Trust.

This is how it works: 

Schools are held to specific standards in their teaching of children. Standards-based teaching started with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was designed to ensure that all students got access to high quality education. No Child Left Behind was the legislation that reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, with one MAJOR new rule: when schools fail to meet these standards for a certain number of years, schools will then be overtaken and outsourced to non-profit or for-profit educational management organizations.

In Plain Words…

If your school is failing because of ISTEP scores, your school may be taken over by the state of Indiana. This is less likely with Glenda Ritz as Superintendent because she is generally not pro-state takeover. State takeovers typically involve a complete staff turnover, and usually a new model of schooling. Oh, and also, the people hired to take over the school are typically for-profit companies, or the non-profit arm of a for-profit company, or a non-profit funded by major for-profit company foundations, like…Wal-Mart. Basically someone, in some way, is profiting when a school is overtaken by the state.

What’s happening in IPS is that instead of waiting for the state to take over a school, they are partnering with charter schools and outsourcing schools on their own, calling it “innovation” and “autonomy.” This means that these schools will have a contract with IPS, but their own governing body. So, basically they get taxpayer money, but taxpayers have no say in what happens in the school because these schools have their own board they’ve elected or appointed in whatever way they’ve chosen.

Why This is a Problem:

Sounds proactive, right? Especially since Glenda Ritz won’t likely be turning over more schools to the state. Well, in simple terms, it’s a few people with a lot of money finding ways to make more money using the funding meant for public schools, exploiting kids and families. Instead of, you know, just fixing the schools they’re in (more on how to do this a few paragraphs down), they’ve figured out a way to turn a profit.

The problem with creating a competitive education market, thinking it will create better schools. is that in most competitions, there has to be a loser. So someone–or some schools, i.e. lots and lots of kids–will still lose.

Perhaps most importantly, enrollment for these schools is tricky and something to be aware of before you jump on board for transforming IPS into “innovation schools”. Typically the way it works is people who have access to the enrollment system–like, maybe an online or in-person enrollment system, or even a lottery–are able to enroll on a first-come, first-serve basis. However, there are usually rules that make access easier for some than others. For example, preference is typically given to siblings of current students. Then students who live within immediate proximity. Then to students who live within a “boundary.” Then to employees’ kids. Then to the public.

In my humble opinion, we need change, but not a complete overhaul of the system. The only thing that’s going to fix bad schools is good teachers.

Know how to attract good teachers?

Well, I have some ideas. For example, my husband made over $30,000 more than I did his third year out of college than I did in 10 years of teaching with a Masters degree.

You know what…I’ll just leave it at that.

Anyway, if you want to know more about the profiteering of charter schools, check out this article.

So What’s the Latest?

IPS is on its way to becoming what’s called a “portfolio school” district: a school district made up of public, charter, and magnet schools (innovation and autonomous schools).

What these districts do is alleviate a lot of responsibility from the public school district who is still responsible for educating all the kids in the district by segregating schools based on access, and making most of the district look good, with just a few failing schools you can probably blame on the neighborhood (…you know, those problematic working single moms who can never come into meetings).

What Can I Do?

Well, if you’re in Indianapolis proper, really look into the next board election. Really find out who is funding their campaigns, and why. Also, attend this:

Involvement to Empowerment: Parents, Teachers and Their Public Schools on November 19, 2015 at 6:00 p.m.

And, read this for more information on how local control is being lost in IPS.

More to come in next month’s Indy Schools Breakdown!