I do not think you can tell the story of education in America without mentioning education in Indianapolis. I do not believe you can tell the story of education in Indianapolis without mentioning the charter school movement. If you ask people about education in Indianapolis, they would most likely share some commentary about charter schools.
That is why I think the story should be written and told. Charterapolis should be a book, but not just any book. Charterapolis should be a book about what arguably is the single most monumental movement to happen in Indianapolis.
I should write the book….
Writing this book will probably take between two to three years. To do it justice, the book will need to tell our story of charter schools here in Indianapolis from the early days until now or when the book is finished. The text should tell the story of those who led the movement in the early days to those leading it now. The book should tell the story of those who supported the movement and those who opposed it. The book should tell the story of those who have been impacted the most by the movement, Black children.
What makes the Indianapolis’ story important?
The Indiana Charter School law was passed and signed in 2001. The conversation about charter schools began as early as 1997. Republican Senator Teresa Lubbers tried to persuade lawmakers to establish a charter school program. Finally, on April 19, 2001, in a 34-12 vote, Democrats and Republicans passed the bill which created charter schools in Indiana. Governor Frank O’Bannon eventually signed the bill. Ten charter schools opened in Indiana the following year, including four in Indianapolis. The four that opened that year included 21st Century Charter School, Flanner House, Christel House Academy, and Irvington Community Schools. Irvington and Christel House are still around today; 21st Century’s Kevin Teasley runs Geo Academies, and Flanner House closed in 2014 after cheating scandal.
Why did it take seven years to finally pass? The first charter school law was passed in 1991 in Minnesota, which is known as the “birthplace” of charter schools. Indiana has been recognized since the charter school law was passed as having the strongest charter schools in the country.
Charterapolis should not just tell the story of charter schools, but it should tell the story of education in Indianapolis. The charter school conversation began in 1994, but the path to charter schools began as far back as the 1930’s with Crispus Attucks and the late 1960’s with Unigov. The stories includes the story of Innovation and the unique partnership of between charter schools and the Indianapolis Public School district. The passing of the charter school bill in Indiana allowed for the Mayor of Indianapolis to authorize charter schools. Indianapolis is one of the rare cities where that happens in our country. Fast forward three Mayors later the portfolio of charter school in the Mayor’s office has exploded.
Charterapolis should not be a book of opinion, but a book based on research. It should be told through narrative and storytelling. The storytelling of the charter school movement in the city and how its impact has been on Black children. As mentioned earlier in this piece, four charter schools opened a year after the bill was passed, and those four schools combined that year to serve almost 700 students, with 70% of those students being students of color. A percentage that is still the case now. Also, that year 64% of the students lived inside the Indianapolis Public School district boundary.
In writing this, I will do my best to leave out my opinion, but I also have a story to tell. I led an elementary school at one of our city’s most recognizable charter networks. I taught at a school that was taken over by a charter management company when the state board took over four failing IPS schools.
I want Charterapolis to tell the story of how school choice in the public school system Indianapolis an opportunity for Black kids to be given a chance to the most important civil right our country offers, which is education. With that education, they have opportunities that otherwise they would get to be their beautiful, black, and magnificent selves.
Projected title of the book: Charterapolis: The Story of the Charter School Movement in Indianapolis and the Education of Black Children.