Indianapolis Public Schools scales back huge referendum request to slightly less huge request

Via IndyPolitics.org:

“Indianapolis Public School officials are scaling back their total referendum request by more than $200 million.

Last year the District unveiled a nearly $1 billion total request for operating expenses and capital improvements. However, Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee says community concerns regarding the high figure compelled them to scale back the number.”

IPS says the money is needed for building renovations and teacher salary increases.

We have three questions about this referendum:

  1. IPS is already closing Broad Ripple High School and converting Northwest and Arlington High Schools into middle schools. Are no savings coming from that?
  2. IPS already receives more state funding than any regional school district per student. Is any of that money not used for capital improvement projects?
  3. Referendums in Indiana only last seven years. Then voters must then re-up on the agreement. What happens if the first referendum passes, then fails in seven years? IPS has shown little ability to adequately cut expenses to make up for what would be a dramatic drop in funding.

It doesn’t make sense to dwell on what could happen in seven or fourteen years. But it is worth asking and knowing.

Residents of IPS’ districts — and other school districts across the region — haven’t understood what they’re paying for. Back in 2015 IPS awarded raises to teachers that put them at the highest point of all schools in Marion County. Pay rates are also higher than Carmel, Hamilton Southeastern, and Westfield-Washington at many levels.

When voters think of paying for schools, they reasonably think of paying for buildings, books, teachers, and custodians.

They do not, however, think of paying for two six-figure assistant superintendents, a Chief of Staff for Development, a PR person, and dozens of deans, department heads, and chiefs. IPS has around 170 employees making over $100,000 a year that don’t provide direct classroom instruction.

The district has overhead and needs some level of administration. We contend there’s too much emphasis on administration within IPS that is whittling away their funding. IPS needs to try to educate the public about what they’re doing to save money and spend wisely before asking for more.

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