In 2018, voters in Marion County approved nearly $220 million for Indianapolis Public Schools. The intent of that money was to help with teacher pay, student services, and maintenance. IPS will begin sharing the money from that 2018 property-tax referendum with its charter school partners.
This is a big deal. It is not just because of the extra money, but also because of the precedent it would set.
To understand why this matters you have to understand the typical relationship between public charters and traditional public schools. We’d like to think of it as a partnership but to put it bluntly in most places it is really more of a rivalry. Some would argue that description is too kind and would take it a step further by calling it adversarial. Even in places that are more favorable to charters, many traditional public-school advocates and union leaders still complain about them.
Indianapolis is no different. Charters are probably as accepted here as they possibly could be relative to other cities. However, you don’t have to work that hard to find someone who claims they are “taking” money from IPS schools or outsourcing their behavior problems and sped population to the district schools. This is to be somewhat expected. After all, these schools are still fighting over the same kids, and less of them than in years past.
What makes Indianapolis different is that there has been leadership on both sides of the spectrum who have had the foresight to see that the charter – district school relationship could be symbiotic and work for both parties. We have seen this with innovation charter schools: Schools that operate independently but are under the Indianapolis Public Schools umbrella which provides certain benefits.
Currently those certain benefits do NOT include referendum or property tax money. This is typical of charters nationwide. Charter schools typically depend only on headcount money and are often forced to do more with less than their district counterparts. The latest proposal from Superintendent Alessia Johnson will alleviate some of the funding gap between the two types of schools. She knows firsthand the struggles of funding in charter schools because she was the school leader of one. (In complete transparency, she was my former boss at the school where I am currently employed. This school is now an IPS innovation school.)
The innovation charter schools will receive about $500 in additional funding per district pupil. This is still much less than the $1800 that traditional IPS schools receive per student … but it’s a start and a significant one.