IPS may ask voters to raise taxes for improvements

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis Public Schools may ask voters to raise taxes to improve facilities and expand education opportunities, the district said in a news release issued Thursday night.

A tax increase of an additional $6 for most homeowners would result if voters approved the two referendums proposed Thursday night during an IPS Board meeting.

Asked by email when the referendum might happen, Marc Ransford, a spokesman for the school district, told News 8 that many details remain undetermined. However, information presented during the IPS Board meeting suggested the balloting could happen in May.

Ransford’s email on Thursday night said, “Many details are being worked out. Tonight, we are just bringing this to the board. There will be no vote this evening.”

One of the proposed referendums would raise $410 million for capital improvements, indoors and outdoors, such as “safe, warm, welcoming buildings,” the release said. The other referendum would raise operating funds totaling $50 million “to ensure quality educational opportunities and options for our 31,000 students supported by quality teachers and staff.”

Hearings about the referendum proposal could come in mid-November, with a final decision and vote from the board on Dec. 6.

The IPS release says the proposed referendum came after “considerable public input” following the release of its draft of the Rebuilding Stronger plan in September.

The release says voters in the IPS district approved its last funding referendum in 2018.

Indiana Department of Education statistics, last updated for the 2020-21 school year, say IPS has 22,928 students.

News release

IPS Proposes Capital and Operating Referendums to Fund Rebuilding Stronger

Referendums will support better buildings with excellent and equitable offerings for every student — plus more competitive pay for teachers

“INDIANAPOLIS — For more than a year, Indianapolis Public Schools has been working on its Rebuilding Stronger initiative to provide great schools with warm, welcoming facilities — inside and out — and excellent education offerings with equitable access for every student, in every neighborhood. After considerable public input, including more than 80 public meetings, IPS released its Rebuilding Stronger Draft Plan on September 13. The plan reflects what the community said it values most, including:

“· Providing quality educational facilities that are safe, warm and welcoming

“· Ensuring excellent and equitable education offerings for all IPS students

“· Providing quality educational facilities that are safe, warm and welcoming

“· Ensuring excellent and equitable education offerings for all IPS students

· Offering compensation that supports our outstanding teachers and support staff

“On Thursday, Oct. 27, IPS leadership presented updates to the draft plan based on stakeholder feedback, and shared a proposal for capital and operating referendums to fund Rebuilding Stronger to the IPS Board of School Commissioners.

“IPS has made substantial changes to the budget to support this plan, implementing nearly all of the recommendations received from business and civic leaders to reduce costs, including managing energy and transportation costs and selling surplus real estate. As part of Rebuilding Stronger, IPS is making critical structural changes to align our budget with our values. But to deliver fully on these commitments, Rebuilding Stronger will require a financial commitment from the community.

“‘We will be a district that is excellent because it is equitable. We will be a district where every student can access a future of their choosing. But that vision can only be possible with these referendums. We need your support this spring to build the IPS that every student and family deserves,’ said IPS Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson.

“Rebuilding Stronger will be financed in three ways

“· Aligning the district’s budget with community values. IPS has made changes since 2014 to tighten its budget by implementing nearly all of the recommendations of business and civic leaders, and has made innovations in financial management through structural changes. At both the state and national level, IPS has been recognized for its work as a result of some of these efforts.

“· A $410M Capital Referendum to invest in district facilities — indoors and out — and ensure students go to school in safe, warm, welcoming buildings and that the communities around our schools benefit from these investments.

“· Approximately $50M annually until 2031 through an operating referendum to ensure quality educational opportunities and options for our 31,000 students supported by quality teachers and staff.

“For an additional $6 per month for most homeowners, the district can realize its goals.

“‘IPS has proven to be responsible fiscal stewards, keeping the promises made in 2018 to invest in teachers and staff — and now we are looking to the community again to support this essential investment in our buildings and our people,’ said Kenneth Allen, IPS Commissioner. ‘We are not asking you to take anything on faith — we’ve worked with the community at every step of the way, and will continue to be accountable and transparent in our actions. We are, however, asking you to have faith in our students — to show they are worth this investment.’

“Community support for IPS through referendums is not new. IPS kept its promises made with the 2018 referendum — not only on teacher pay, but also managing energy and transportation costs, selling surplus real estate when the flexibility allowed, and most important, improving student learning.

“Since IPS’ successful 2018 referendum, the residents of nine other Marion County school districts have approved referendums to support their students, staff and their school community. IPS students are worth this same investment.

“As Lacy M. Johnson, a Taft partner, IPS graduate and member of the IPS Hall of Fame, said best: ‘It takes courage to create a plan this bold and aspirational that promises better buildings and excellent academic choices for every student, in every school, in every neighborhood — regardless of race or socioeconomic status. Families in Indianapolis should not have to worry about the school their children will attend. Instead, they should be excited about the opportunities and offerings available at all schools for all students. I fully support the Rebuilding Stronger plan, but it will take the community to get this plan over the finish line — and that includes financial support from all stakeholders. A better IPS means a better future for Indianapolis.’

What the Community is Saying About Rebuilding Stronger

Chante Campbell, Principal, George W. Julian School 57

”Through grade reconfiguration, students will benefit because … they will meet different students throughout the day, they will spend time with different teachers, and have a full scope of electives that will allow them to find their interest and develop their interests.’

Adrienne Kuchik, Principal, James A. Garfield School 31

“‘Rebuilding Stronger offers the opportunity for all students to have equitable resources, no matter where they live in the city, no matter what their address is, their socioeconomic status. Everybody will get offered the same opportunities and I think that’s essential for the success of our district and our students.’

Melody Coryell, Executive Director of Postsecondary Readiness, Indianapolis Public Schools

“‘When we look at the success of Choice programs … we need to look at how we provide that access that we used to have (to these higher-performing, high-demand programs) for a diverse group of students that reflect the larger district population and the larger Indianapolis population.’

Stacy Coleman, Principal, Henry W. Longfellow Medical/STEM Middle School 28

“‘There are so many differences (at a middle school building), and that’s what makes me excited about Rebuilding Stronger. Middle schools have a concentrated focus on preparing students for the next level.’

Josh Goodman, Music Teacher, Arsenal Tech High School

“‘(In other districts), students are starting band and choir in 6th, sometimes 7th grade, and they’re also getting a great elementary music education … Rebuilding Stronger will give our students the same exact opportunities that other schools (and other urban districts) give to their students.’

Darren Thomas, Director of Athletics, Indianapolis Public Schools

“‘Participating in athletics can be critical in the development of (the) whole child, and especially for IPS students. With Rebuilding Stronger (and the improvements in athletic facilities), we’ll have the opportunity for more of our students to reach those goals and to develop in athletics and in the classroom.’

Indianapolis Public Schools news release issued Oct. 27, 2022


“As an organization that spent significant resources supporting the 2018 IPS referenda, we certainly understand the need to invest in our local public schools. While we look forward to hearing the full details of this latest referenda proposal, I’m confident the parents we work with will have several questions that need to be addressed, starting with the strategy that drives this ask of taxpayers.

“Black and Brown families have been clear in their feedback to IPS that the Rebuilding Stronger plan misses the mark when it comes to equitable opportunities for students. The plan greatly expands a school program that has among the worst racial testing gaps in the entire state of Indiana. What even more problematic< leaving out a key parent request to grow a local public school model that is seeing proficiency that is four times the state average for children of color. In hearing from our Stand parent advocates these last several months, I think it is safe to say that growing schools that are working best for children who have been historically underserved must be a key part of any plan funded by this potential referenda.

“It’s our hope that IPS will listen to the constructive feedback being offered by parents — especially parents of color — when it comes to both the referenda and the Rebuilding Stronger plan. For Stand to support any future referenda, the plan for utilizing this new taxpayer funding must be rooted in equity.”

Justin Ohlemiller, executive director, Stand for Children Indiana