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Black and Latino families plead for unity, focus on students 

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This week, the Indianapolis Public School (IPS) Board of Commissioners sued the State of Indiana claiming the district is exempt from a law that took effect in 2011 and was revised earlier this year.  
Currently IPS receives property tax funds to maintain its various facilities: Free public charter (also referred to as autonomous) schools do not receive property tax funds. In an effort to provide equitable funding for all students, the $1 law ensures public autonomous schools, which receive less funding than traditional public schools, can access the vacant buildings.  
While IPS and the State of Indiana are working through legal aspects of the recent filing, African American and Latino community members are calling for the district and charter schools to work together.   
“I have grandchildren who go to IPS schools and charter schools,” said Wesley Robinson. “Black kids and Brown kids mostly go to these types of schools, so why fight over something that can benefit all children? Let all students be able to attend schools that are now empty and not serving a purpose.” 

Robinson is Black.  

Luz Barbosa, a Latino, agrees with the grandfather of eight. 

“We have to learn to work together for our kids. There is strength in numbers and we’re all considered ‘minorities’ or ‘people of color.’ Us Blacks and Hispanics experience the same bad treatment and discrimination from others, so we should at least unite for our kids’ sake,” said Barbosa. 

Recent data compiled from information provided by the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) proves Robinson and Barbosa’s theories: The vast majority of students in IPS (72.5%) and autonomous schools (78%) are students of color. The stats are less similar when only considering Black students, as there are nearly twice as many Black students (50.6%) who attend autonomous schools compared to those who attend direct-run IPS schools (36.6%). 

Guadalupe Olmos says she cares less about the school type or classification and more about collaboration.  
“I don’t have a preference for IPS, and I don’t have a preference for charter schools. The buildings are empty, so other schools should be able to use them – it’s better than developers coming in and putting gas stations or liquor stores up. If IPS leaders and charter leaders really care about kids, they would do what’s best for kids and stop fighting each other,” Olmos said. 

Although schools in Marion County have until Oct. 2 for the first student “count day” that details school-based enrollment numbers, data from IDOE show that parents who reside in the areas occupied by IPS and charter schools are actually choosing both school types for their children, with the majority (58.3%) opting for autonomous schools.  

“Me, my siblings and all our cousins attended IPS, but back then, we didn’t have a lot of options,” explained Dorothy Cannon, a 58-year-old Indianapolis native. “Things are different now and families have more choices. This doesn’t mean charters are better than IPS, and it doesn’t mean IPS schools are better than charters. It just means we have more choices. I think it is silly to fight over who gets what building. They all need to be focused on making sure our babies can read.”  

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