Indianapolis Public Schools is the largest school district in the state, serving more than 31,500 students. During my time as an IPS school board commissioner, I’ve observed our superintendent, Dr. Aleesia Johnson, and her team’s commitment to improving our schools. As an at-large school board member, I represent families and community members across the entire district. I am a longstanding social justice and community advocate. I serve as the immediate past chair the Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males, and last year, successfully reinstated the Indianapolis commission. That is why the injustice Black IPS students face is so stark to me, and why I believe referendum dollars should be shared with IPS Innovation Network Schools.
In 2018, IPS’ referendum campaign granted the district $52 million capital and $220 million operating funds to improve buildings and increase teacher pay. This means Center Township taxpayers were willing to incur a property tax increase so that IPS families could benefit from more resources. However, the $220 million operating funds have yet to be shared with all IPS students, namely, students who attend IPS Innovation Network Schools.
IPS district enrollment is growing, which is in large part due to Innovation Network Schools. About 40% of the district, or 12,700 students, attend an IPS Innovation Network School. Of students served, 50% are Black, 29% are Hispanic, and 78% qualify for free and reduced-priced meals. These schools enroll a higher percentage of Black students and students experiencing poverty than district-run schools. Historically marginalized groups have academic and social barriers that require financial resources to address.
The IPS School Board recently approved goals that aim to help eliminate the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers. If the district and school board expect these goals to be met, all IPS students must have equal access to funding. It is unjust, and a disservice to our students of color and socioeconomically disadvantaged students, to not be able to receive the same funding as all other students in the district.
For months, I have requested and fought for referendum dollars to be shared with Innovation schools that are serving majority Black, Hispanic, and low-income students. I am displeased these dollars have yet to be shared. I’ve listened to countless parents and teachers plead with the district to share these dollars with their students. We should all be moved by this.
IPS wants stronger academic outcomes for its students. However, to advance on this front, equitable funding is necessary. I am committed to ensuring these funds are distributed fairly, especially with those who need them most. We all benefit from a strong and inclusive district. I implore the full community to continue to support IPS and all the students we serve. It is also imperative we begin to equitably fund all of our schools so we can rise to success together.
Kenneth Allen is an IPS commissioner at-large and the vice chair of the Indianapolis Commission on African American Males. Follow him on Twitter @allen4IPS and email him at Allen4IPS@gmail.com.