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Monday, May 16, 2022

Time to deal with reality of charter schools as 2nd in size to IPS

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Last week, this column revealed the real facts about white families fleeing Indianapolis’ quality township schools and the depths of racial diversity in Indy’s major school districts.

This week, this column looks at the charters.

After gathering data on the 2013-2014 school enrollments by race/ethnicity in our city/county, some new and revealing statistics on Indianapolis’ charter schools emerged.

First, and critically important, whether you like them or not, charter schools have become a critical part of public education in Indianapolis/Marion County.

The 38 charter schools located within the city/county have become Indianapolis’ second largest school district, behind the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). Some 23,315 students attend charter schools based in Indianapolis.

But there’s a caveat.

Two charter schools “headquartered” in Indy are virtual schools. Chartered by the Indiana Charter School Board, the Hoosier Academies Virtual Charter School and Indiana Connections Academy are virtual schools. They have no classrooms in our city/county. Students enrolled in these schools can literally live anywhere in Indiana.

The enrollment of these two virtual schools is 7,686. No one knows exactly how many of those 7,686 students live in our city/county. A good guess might be the majority don’t.

As a result the 23,315 figure for total charter school enrollment in Indianapolis must be discounted.

If I remove the two virtual charters from the list, total enrollment in 36 charter schools in Indianapolis totals 15,629. The third largest district in the city, behind IPS and Wayne Township.

If you include the enrollment of the virtual charters, non-Hispanic whites comprise 43.1 percent of charter enrollment, followed by African-Americans at 37 percent and Hispanics at 10 percent.

When I remove the virtual charters from the mix, Blacks comprise 50.8 percent of Indy’s charter students, non-Hispanic whites 24.4 percent and Hispanics 12.4 percent.

Twenty-six of Indianapolis’ 38 charter schools are operated by the mayor of Indianapolis. The others are operated by either the Indiana Charter School Board or Ball State University.

Of the non-virtual charters not run by the mayor, 76 percent of their students are non-Hispanic white, 28.6 percent are Black and 11.4 percent are Hispanic.

But of the charters run by the mayor’s office, 57.5 percent of their students are Black, 15.5 percent non-Hispanic white and 13.5 percent Hispanic.

Some 6,173 African-Americans are enrolled in the mayor’s charter schools out of a total enrollment of 10,742. The mayor’s charters have the third largest enrollment of Black students of any Indianapolis school district, after IPS and Pike Township.

All charters, including virtual charters, have the second largest Black enrollment after IPS.

As a group, the mayor’s charter schools are the city’s third Black-majority school district, with a higher percentage of Black students than Pike and ahead of IPS. Yet, Blacks are conspicuously absent in the top echelon of supervisory leadership over the mayor’s charter schools.

Neither the deputy mayor for education nor the head of the mayor’s charter schools are African-American. And I don’t believe there’s an African-American in a significant policy decision-making position with the city’s Office of Education Innovation.

Neither do African-Americans hold significant decision making positions with the Indiana Charter School Board or with Ball State’s Office of Charter Schools.

Despite the significant disagreements and concerns our African-American community has with the concept of charter schools, we must now accept the fact that in Indiana’s largest city, charter schools aren’t a fad anymore. They’re as significant a factor at educating all children, especially educating African-American children, as any of the city’s major school districts.

The school districts in Indianapolis with the highest percentage of African-American students have African-Americans in top policy positions in those districts.

We must demand that the other Indy school district that’s Black-majority, Mayor Ballard’s charter schools, also have inclusionary leadership.

What I’m hearing

in the streets

Marion County Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg agreed with Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s contention that Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, as a state elected official, didn’t have the right to bring suit against the members of the Indiana State Board of Education.

Though Rosenberg threw out Ritz’s suit on those grounds, it left unsettled the question of whether the education board acted against the letter and/or spirit of the state’s open meeting law in collaborating an end around Ritz in a dispute over formulating the A-F accountability grades for schools.

* * * * *

The “party of no” – the Indiana and Marion County Republican parties – came out blasting Marion County Clerk Beth White’s entry into the secretary of state’s race last week.

Marion County GOP Chair Kyle Walker was especially caustic, blasting White’s record at managing elections.

Of course Walker’s the architect of the Republican “Hell No” campaign of eviscerating any semblance of early voting (and other reasonable election procedures) here in Marion County. At a time when suburban Republican counties are increasing early voting locations and frequency. Republicans want Marion County to have as little early voting as possible.

Voter convenience and consideration will be a major issue in the race for county clerk. Republicans haven’t yet chosen their candidate who will be travelling the city/county trying to explain Walker and the GOP’s indefensible position.

Meanwhile two African-American Democrats are poised to run.

The choice of key party leaders is Marion County Coroner Dr. Frank Lloyd Jr. He announced last week he’s running for clerk. Myra Eldridge, a top deputy for Clerk Beth White, had already announced her candidacy and has been out talking with party workers.

This contest could go past February’s slating convention into a full-fledged primary challenge. We’ll see.

And I’ll see ‘ya next week.

Email comments to acbrown@aol.com.

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