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IPS Board of School Commissioners approves Rebuilding Stronger plan

The plan to give all students equal opportunities and improve school infrastructure will cost $810 million, paid by two referendums
Posted at 12:04 AM, Nov 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-17 22:03:40-05

UPDATE: The IPS Board of School Commissioners approved the Rebuilding Stronger plan during Thursday, November 17's Board Action Session.

INDIANAPOLIS — This week, Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners will vote on Rebuilding Stronger. It's their plan they say will provide equal opportunities for all students in their district and allow them to take care of necessary building maintenance, repairs, etc.

As it stands, Rebuilding Stronger comes with an $810 million price tag. A one-time, $410 million capital referendum will go toward renovations and rebuilding an elementary school. Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson says it'll help them take care of the most pressing issues maintenance-wise. They have $1.2 billion in deferred maintenance projects. The operating referendum, totaling $400 million will be divided over eight years to expand curriculum offerings in schools and keep salaries competitive.

IPS estimates the total cost to the average homeowner will be an extra $6 per month, $72 a year

Dr. Johnson says the district has crunched the numbers and this is what they need to be successful. She doesn't mince words about the alternative if funding for the plan isn't approved.

"If in fact our community says that's an investment we're not willing to make, then we will need to pivot to a different conversation and unfortunately, I believe that conversation won't be, let's keep the status quo we have today. That conversation will be about how we may need to further reduce or limit opportunities for our student," Dr. Johnson said.

The IPS School Board will take a final vote on the "Rebuilding stronger" plan on Thursday. If you'd like to provide public comment before their vote, you can do so by signing up here. In December, they'll vote on the tax referenda to get them on the May 2023 election ballot.

IPS says it has been cutting costs wherever possible. However, if Rebuilding Stronger does not get a green light from the community, their budget could be in the red by 2026. Below, you'll find a detailed breakdown, from IPS, of Rebuilding Stronger and the intended goals.

Rebuilding Stronger

  • IPS is a family of excellent public schools in which every student has the opportunity to succeed and the power to create their own future.
  • IPS empowers and educates all students to think critically, creatively, and responsibly, to embrace diversity, and to pursue their dreams with purpose.
  • Through our 2025 Strategic Plan, we have set ambitious goals for the next 5 years. We will:
  • Improve achievement for all students
  • Show dramatic gains for Black/Latinx students
  • Increase graduation rates
  • Increase enrollment

Community Engagement

  • Between the draft plan being released on September 13 through October 19, IPS hosted more than 75 public meetings with 1 staff meeting at each school, at  least 2 family meetings at each school and 12 community-based meetings to ensure knowledge of the draft plan and to receive feedback and answer questions. 
  • IPS staff also distributed 900 packets and made 800 individual phone calls at target schools to ensure awareness building.
  • The district collected data from families and community members in four main ways after the draft plan release:
  • More than 1,000 attendees at school meetings
  • 232 attendees at community-wide meetings
  • 960 feedback responses via Let’s Talk survey responses
  • 660 answered questions 
  • From principals and school navigators at each school

What will be different for our students under this plan?

  • Currently: 1,471 middle school students (34.4%) have access to Band/Orchestra. After Rebuilding Stronger: 4,264 middle school students (100%) will have access to Band/Orchestra.
  • Currently: 1,458 middle school students (34.1%) have access to World Language. After Rebuilding Stronger: 4,264 middle school students (100%) will have access to World Language. 
  • Currently: 1,754 middle school students (41%) have access to Algebra 1. After Rebuilding Stronger: 4,264 middle school students (100%) will have access to Algebra 1. 
  • Due to Zones implementation, we will be able to reduce the number of student transfers due to change in address by 76%.
  • Once implemented, IPS will double the number of high-demand, higher-performing seats available to students.
  • Once implemented, 75% more students will attend a school that is “at scale.” 
  • We are making an investment in choice and the expansion of opportunity for all students across IPS.
  • IPS is the only public school district in Marion County that offers access to nationally recognized programming tuition free
  • Outside of IPS, the only other options for families to access International Baccalaureate and Montessori is in a private school setting:
  • Ex: A local private school offering IB curriculum costs $21,000 for grades 1-5.
  • Rebuilding Stronger will increase access to STEM by adding an estimated 2,600 STEM focused seats.
  • Updates to the Rebuilding Stronger Plan since Oct. 27

As a result of feedback received from district stakeholders, IPS has updated aspects of the plan to better reflect the voices of parents, students, staff and community partners — while still ensuring equity in student experience for all students:

High-ability and dual-language programming at Harshman Middle School:

  • IPS will direct-manage the dual-language programming at Harshman rather than IPS charter partner Global Preparatory Academy. 
  • Dual-language and high-ability will be located at Harshman and operated as one school with two programmatic pathways. All staff at the school will be IPS employees.
  • Students who qualify for both dual-language and and high-ability will be able to access both programs.

Merging Schools

  • Joint family meetings began this week for merging schools.
  • Selected principal conducting meet & greets, and taking parent input.
  • Begin staffing and professional development process as needed.
  • Begin operational considerations for moving students and needed materials

Building Leadership

  • Principal selection processes will begin in January 2023, specifically for new schools that are launching to allow for an extended planning timeline.
  • For schools experiencing a program change, a supplemental administrator will be identified to support the school in SY23-24 to allow for additional planning and engagement capacity.

Charter and Innovation Partnerships

We will launch our annual “Call for Innovation Applications,” in January with a specific focus on schools with a track record of success as defined by:

  • Consistently performs near or above the state average on state assessments (ILEARN, IREAD, etc.) for all students for both proficiency and growth.
  • Consistently performs near or above the state average on state assessments (ILEARN, IREAD) for students of color for both proficiency and growth. 
  • Shows evidence of reduction in achievement gaps between students of color and white students on state assessments over time.
  • Limits student suspensions in general, and specifically does not disproportionately suspend students of color or special education students.

Rebuilding Stronger Referendum

Supt. Dr. Aleesia Johnson, IPS Chief of Staff Andrew Strope, and IPS Chief Financial Officer Weston Young, will lead the presentation.

What Audiences Need to Know

  • IPS has delivered on commitments to competitively compensate teachers
  • IPS has delivered on a wide range of operational cost saving measures
  • IPS must remain competitive among Central Indiana districts to attract, recruit, and retain quality teachers to deliver desired academic outcomes
  • State-wide, state per pupil revenues are intended for instructional needs. IPS has experienced stagnant and inadequate funding to support student needs since SY 2010-11. The state does not fund any capital needs.
  • State-wide, property tax revenues are intended for operational and capital needs. Local taxpayers across the state have been relied on to provide operational services and capital improvements, while also increasingly filling state funding gaps for instruction.
  • Similar to most school districts in Central Indiana, long-term sustainability for IPS will require prudent decision-making, while encouraging and sustaining local taxpayer support to meet community demand for instructional and operational services.

Rebuilding Stronger will be financed in three ways:

  • Continued alignment of our budget to our values. 
  • Capital and Operating referendums:
  • The operating referendum would seek to:
  • The capital improvement referendum would seek to:
  • Propose a local property tax levy of no more than $0.25 on each $100 of assessed valuation.
  • If approved, effective 1/1/24, the $0.25 rate would replace the current $0.19 local property tax levy
  • Continues to support competition compensation for staff
  • Fund the enhanced student experience for all students
  • Fund the expansion and replication of academic programming across IPS
  • Generate $410 million to fund the Rebuilding Stronger Project. 
  • Call for a local property tax levy of no more than $0.2066 per $100 of assessed valuation. 
  • Support new construction and renovations to expand and enhance the elementary and middle school experience.
  • Address critical deferred maintenance needs in some IPS-owned school facilities.

State Funding 

Since 2013, state tuition support has:

  • increased 6% for IPS
  • increased 21% for Indiana average
  • There is a gap between funding needed to support students who have special needs with the funding received from the state and federal government.

For the past seven years, the gap for IPS is:

  • $19 million for Special Education
  • $7 million for English Language Learners

Making Every Tax Dollar Count

Investment in IPS Teachers:

  • Up 28% from SY 2017–18 to SY 2022–23
  • Average salary up from $58,133 to $74,826

Operational Savings:

  • Disposal of Underutilized Buildings → $25 million since 2015
  • Annual reduction of Facility Maintenance

Transportation Initiatives → $72 million cumulative savings since 2017

  • Fuel Efficient Bus Fleet
  • Routing Optimization
  • IndyGo Partnership

Facilities & Energy Management

  • Utilities Monitoring → $1 million cumulative savings since 2017
  • Custodial staffing → $15 million cumulative savings since 2017