Indianapolis Public Schools will implement just part of the Rebuilding Stronger overhaul after the school board failed to hold a valid referendum in the upcoming elections in May.
In a statement released Friday, IPS Superintendent Alesia Johnson called the delay an “unfortunate delay.” In the meantime, the district will move forward with changes set to take place in 2023-24, including preschool expansions and school closings.
Recovery is stronger aimed at expanding popular academic offeringssuch as visual arts and Montessori programming, for all students district-wide as part of a seek justice. Rebuilding Stronger also realigns grades to provide greater operational efficiency for a district that has gradually lost students to charter schools over the years as enrollment in traditional, non-innovative schools has fallen from 27,988 in 2015-2016 to 19,596 in 2022-23. according to district and state data.
The plan called for two tax-increment ballot items — one totaling $51.7 million annually over eight years to support operating expenses that would fund program expansion and teacher pay, and the other Referendum on $410 million in capital spending which will fund building improvements and new buildings.
The capital referendum will still be on the May ballot.
But the school board did not vote in a referendum on operating expenses last month among the significant ones rejection of the charter school and the business community. The council is unlikely to vote on the measure before the Feb. 17 deadline to place it on the ballot.
Charter school advocates and the powerful groups behind them — such as Stand for Children Indiana and the Mind Trust — called for more funding for charters in the referendum. Indy Chamber too expressed concern about the district’s planand said he could not support him at this time.
Other changes planned for 2024-2025 are on hold while officials determine next steps. These changes include the introduction of four simplified enrollment zones and the expansion of academic programs, such as the International Baccalaureate, throughout the district.
“It makes me very sad that there are those in our community who question whether or not our children deserve what they deserve,” Johnson said. “I am left wondering why again and again IPS is asked to wait on behalf of our students — to be more creative with already strained resources.”
The Referendum on $410 million in capital spending Still slated for a vote in May, Johnson said Friday, would amount to an additional $3 a month on a median home value of $138,500.
She still called on voters to support the capital’s referendum.
“This is a really big deal and I don’t want to lose sight of how much good we will do because of your generous support and investment,” she said.
In her video statement, Johnson said the changes planned for 2023-24 will still happen. She especially noted:
- Closure and expansion of several schools. Under Recovery Stronger resolution board passed in November, these schools are slated to close: Francis Bellamy PreK Center, Floro Torrence School 83, Paul Miller School 114, Raymond Brandes School 65, George Buck School 94 and Francis Parker Montessori School 56.
According to the resolution, students of these schools will have priority in the district lottery when choosing new schools for this year.
- Expanding early childhood education from Francis Bellamy to additional schools across the district. The Rebuilding Stronger resolution lists six schools that will receive preschool in 2023-2024: Carl Wilde School 79, Charles Fairbanks School 105, Brookside School 54, Daniel Webster School 46, James Garfield School 31 and James Russell Lowell School 51.
Other parts of Rebuilding Stronger planned for 2023-24 include:
Students at SUPER School 19, which is an innovation school but not governed by a charter, can choose to stay there or be prioritized in the district-wide lottery, according to the Rebuilding Stronger resolution passed by the board in November.
The district said it is exploring an innovation contract with a new school operator, Near Eastside Innovation School Corporation, for School 14 in Washington Irving.
Johnson said her team will discuss other components of the Rebuilding Stronger plan, particularly those planned for 2024-25, over the next few weeks.
“I will not see the vision that this community has come together around be diminished by the politics of zero-sum games and either-or thinking,” she said. “It’s a game where nobody wins and the kids lose.”
Amelia Pack-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Marion County schools for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at firstname.lastname@example.org.