On Friday, charter leaders from across the city asked the IPS Superintendent and the Indianapolis Public School board to equally share any referendum dollars if awarded in an election next year. These leaders representing 29 charter schools would like IPS to share an equal amount of revenue among all public-school students who live and attend school within IPS boundaries. The 29 schools represent innovation charter schools operating through district agreements and independent charter schools not affiliated with the district.
According to the letter shared by WFYI, when IPS agreed last year to share funds from their 2018 referendum with innovation networks schools, the amount was $500, which was, as they stated, “far less than the $1,800 per student in district-run schools received.” We all know that independent charter schools received nothing from that referendum.
The most important question is whether the district should share the money equally with all charter schools within the IPS boundary. I can see both sides of the story.
The charter school leaders, both innovative and independent, believe that if we are to move forward, then all schools must be funded equally. The money must follow the child to whatever school their families believe best fits their educational needs. I agree with that statement. The public money should follow the child being educated in a public school. Based on the numbers shared in the letter, charter schools did get the short end of the stick from the referendum money in 2018.
I love to see these charter school leaders band together. For far too long, the charter section in this city was split. On one side, there are innovation charter schools, and on the other are independently run charter schools. This is the first major step towards a unified charter collaborative. We saw something similar in 2020 in the face of the pandemic and the racial unrest our city was facing. That lasted only a few weeks as schools pledged to be more racially conscious. Will the unified approach towards equal funding last longer than the unified approach to creating anti-racist schools?
IPS Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson responded in a statement posted on the district website. She made it clear the language in the proposed referendum sent to the board and will be put to vote does not include funds for charter schools that are not part of IPS. Dr. Johnson pointed to the fact that to share the money with charter schools not affiliated with IPS there will be no mechanism for the IPS administration or the board to oversee those funds. It is a tough stance for Dr. Johnson to take, but it is a stance I agree with.
I do see a way for all parties to get what they want. Only greatness can be achieved by making sacrifices. Sacrifice needs to be made on both sides to ensure children win and ALL children win. The charter schools should propose independent charters not affiliated with IPS that if the board and the district agree to share the referendum money, they will be willing to partner with the district on how the funds will be spent. The district must understand that while they will be allowed to work with independent charter schools, they will not have the final say in how money is spent. The district and board will be allowed some oversight to ensure funds align with what the district has planned in its Rebuilding Stronger initiative. Some innovation and independently run charters are taking action the districts wants to do with their schools in this latest overhaul.
From the outside, both sides believe their way is the right way. The right way is for ALL kids to win. Also, both sides have the best interest of the children they serve; however, to have the best interest of ALL children, both sides must let go of any selfishness for the sake of the children in our city.