There are some big potential changes coming to Indianapolis Public Schools.
District leaders recently unveiled their draft Rebuilding Stronger plan, which includes additional academic and extracurricular offerings, more choice programs, geographic zones, grade reconfiguration and a reduction in schools.
As candidates for IPS school board, we listened eagerly to Dr. Johnson’s address, and over the past week have been trying to decipher the plan and the vision for the district. We both agree that the overall goals are certainly in alignment with our values: more great schools, more excellent offerings, and more equitable access.
We are concerned, however, that local families, educators and residents do not have enough information to decide whether the plan as drafted will accomplish those goals or whether there are better ways to approach the challenges we face.
As it stands, seven schools are slated to close or consolidate within the next year, and almost every school in the district faces grade reconfiguration. These are huge potential disruptions, and we are being asked to trust that they will result in every student across our city having access to quality public schools.
But trust requires transparency, and right now, we have more questions than answers. As the conversation around Rebuilding Stronger moves forward, here are three areas we hope to see addressed:
- Make the financial case for these changes.
- Present information in a way that families and educators can easily navigate and have input on
- Replicate school models with a proven record of closing the opportunity gap for Black and Brown students, and lift up language justice and the need for more teachers of color as part of this plan.
One of our biggest concerns about Rebuilding Stronger is the lack of financial data available to justify the recommended changes.
For example, the district has repeatedly said it would cost $500 million to repair or update all of its existing buildings, but they have not released any details beyond that number to justify closing or consolidating seven schools.
We have been told that K-8 schools are expensive to run, and that moving to a K-5 model with new middle schools will save money that can be spent on programming, but those details similarly have not been provided.
The proposed shift to four geographic zones holds promise for greater equity, but it likely will mean an increase in transportation costs if busing is available to every school within a zone.
The bottom line: We need to know more about how they got to the bottom line before we can support these sweeping changes.
In addition to financial transparency, we hope IPS leaders will make the information in the Rebuilding Stronger plan easier for families to understand as they hold community meetings over the coming weeks. The way the plan is organized on the website is difficult to follow, and information can be hard to find.
Finally, given the equity focus of this plan and the fact that roughly 80 percent of IPS students are non-white, we need to be sure we are laser-focused on replicating school models that are closing the opportunity gap for students of color; centering language justice; and finding ways to get more teachers in our classrooms who look like the students they’re teaching.
We applaud the district for the time they put into Rebuilding Stronger, and we look forward to the community feedback process. Though we likely will not get to vote on the plan, we will be responsible for implementing it in the coming years, and we are eager to hear questions and comments from families and educators.
Now is the time to make your voice heard.
Angelia Moore and Nicole Carey are unopposed candidates for the IPS Board of Commissioners.