Click here to listen to Dr. Ferebee's Thursday, October 25th interview on WFYI's No Limits.
On Election Day, voters in the Indianapolis Public Schools district will see two referendums at the top of their ballots, asking for a total of $272 million in revenue over eight years. Of that, $52 million will go to capital projects to make IPS school buildings safer and more secure.
The $220 million operating referendum has been scrutinized and scaled back, after vigorous public debate and a partnership between IPS and the Indy Chamber that took a tough look at the district’s budget and recommended hundreds of millions of dollars in cost-saving efficiencies.
This slimmed-down plan would cost the average IPS homeowner less than $5 a month, and every penny in new funding will go to pay teachers and principals more, to make IPS an employer of choice for great educators.
No one likes higher taxes. I live and do business here — leading a credit union that serves the financial needs of thousands of members across the IPS district — and I believe these referendums are essential investments in the future of Indianapolis. Here’s why I plan to ‘Vote Yes for IPS.’
High quality education is often promoted as one of the most reliable strategies for lifting the safety and security of a community, increasing the lifetime success of an individual and contributing to families moving into economic stability. A city that invests in a diverse array of high-quality education options not only invests to address today’s challenges, but sets the foundation for a future filled with promise.
For decades, conversations around improving education have often resulted in camps pitted against each other: Public vs. Private vs. Charter; Reformers vs. Traditionalists. The tendency is to agree with your camp, and quickly disagree with your counterpart. At The Oaks Academy, we believe (and teach) it is more meaningful to first consider the merits of a position and then enter into dialogue.
That’s why we’re compelled to share that The Oaks Academy, an independent, faith-based school, supports the Indianapolis Public School referendum.
We simply must have a thriving and successful IPS if we are going to grow as a city.
A few days each week, seniors Shireah Washington and Antonia Dove end their school day at Crispus Attucks High School at about 11 a.m. Instead of spending the afternoon in the classroom, they work as certified nurses assistants at a senior care facility.
The jobs, which come with both paychecks and school credit, are part of a program the high school launched last year to help prepare students for careers in medicine. Six seniors, including Washington and Dove, who trained as CNAs and passed the state exam last year, now have jobs.
The program was so successful that about 40 students are studying for the certification this year, according to the administration.
Now that the latest political circus is behind us (i.e., the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh), we gird ourselves for more political rhetoric in the lead-up to the Nov. 6 election, when we will help decide which party controls Congress for the next two years. Meanwhile, the name calling, childish behavior and inability of federal politicians to work together continues to turn off much of the electorate and contributes to voter apathy.
All of that makes what happens on the state and local level even more important to our daily lives. And given the migration of people from rural areas to urban areas, cities (and their leadership) will only grow in importance. So, while Washington plays political games, there are potholes to fill, crimes to prevent and solve, livable neighborhoods to build or improve, jobs to create and, most importantly, citizens of the future to educate here in central Indiana.
Which leads to an important question that will appear on Marion County ballots on Nov. 6: whether to approve a $272 million property tax referendum, the proceeds of which will be used for operating purposes (teacher raises) and capital investment (security measures and renovation projects) for Indianapolis Public Schools over the next eight years.
The process of how the dollar amount of the referendum was determined is worth celebrating. It is an example of civility, action and maybe most importantly, compromise in the public sphere.
For more than 100 years, Indianapolis Public Schools’ presence in our community has made a difference while graduating thousands of people who have emerged as leaders not only for our city, but across the country.
As executive director of 100 Black Men of Indianapolis Inc. (The 100), I represent some of Indiana’s finest leaders who have a deep commitment to educate students through mentorship.
One of our valued relationships is with Indianapolis Public Schools. Under Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee, the interaction between the district and The 100 has increased significantly and our connection has never been stronger.
Because I know the superintendent, school board and administration are all committed to providing our young people the best education possible, The 100 strongly endorses IPS’ November referenda that will continue the district’s efforts to increase compensation to teachers and enhance the safety measures at its school
Indianapolis Public Schools initially bungled its property-tax-referendum request—seeking way too much money, $936 million over eight years—then failing to make a compelling case for why residents in the district should support it.
Since then, IPS has rebooted the effort, scaling back its request to a much more reasonable $272 million and shifting the planned vote from May to November. The district also won the backing of the Indy Chamber after the business group issued an efficiency report in July that will help pave the way for $400 million in cost savings over eight years.
IPS’ initial hiccups should not obscure the reality that the district desperately needs the additional funds to maintain the momentum it’s demonstrated in recent years. The progress—driven in part by the proliferation of new and popular programs such as the IPS/Butler University Lab School—is reflected in higher enrollment, higher graduation rates and other metrics. Last year’s enrollment was 31,820, the highest in three years, and the district’s graduation rate stands at 83 percent, up from 47 percent 10 years ago.
Ebene Burney has always had a side hustle during her seven-year teaching career. She used to help her husband with his business. Now, she spends Saturday nights overseeing teens at the YMCA.
“It’s not that much extra, but it does help pay a bill,” said Burney, who moved from Fort Wayne about a year and half ago and says she loves her job teaching in Indianapolis Public Schools.
If teachers were paid better, she thinks fewer educators would leave the classroom. “Teachers have families,” she said. “Teachers are just regular people that need to make a living.”
Teacher and principal salaries, benefits, and raises are at the center of a rocky monthslong campaign to convince voters to raise their own property taxes to increase Indianapolis Public Schools funding. An operating referendum calls for about $220 million over the next eight years and will be paired with a second tax measure that would raise $52 million for building improvements.
Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee and IPS Chief Financial Manager Weston Young on Community Connection
Indiana’s largest school system is on the cusp of an unusual, three-year partnership with the local chamber of commerce designed to carry out extensive cuts that the business group proposed for balancing the district’s budget.
Under an arrangement that the Indianapolis Public Schools Board will vote on Thursday, the Indy Chamber would pay as much as $1 million during the first year for two new district administrators and consulting by outside groups to implement its cost-cutting plan. The agreement is nonbinding, and the chamber or district could withdraw at any time.
Stair steppers, pedal chairs and a collection of energy-burning gadgets you would expect to find in a school gym, Eyewitness News found in IPS classrooms. School 43 is putting students' wasted and often disruptive energy to work. It's called Action Based Learning.
"If I am a kid that has the fidgets I can bounce," Principal Bakari Posey explained as he bounced away on a special foot stool. "That normal sit and get, when the teacher is just talking to you. You sit and listen. We moved completely away from that."
When Sara Martin and her husband looked at elementary schools for their son three years ago, they were hoping for a spot at one of Indianapolis Public Schools’ most sought-after magnet programs. Instead, they landed at School 87, a Montessori school in a poor neighborhood that is among the magnets that typically have open seats after the district lottery.
The Martins, who had included the school among their choices without even going for a tour, were convinced after visiting the westside school and seeing happy students working independently. “I just kind of fell in love with it,” Sara Martin said.
With less than two months until Election Day, the effort to pass two referendums to increase funding for Indianapolis Public Schools is gaining momentum. Almost every day, campaign workers are fanning out across Indianapolis to seek support from voters. And Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is stopping by community meetings across the district to make his case that the district needs taxpayers’ help.
An IPS middle school celebrated a unique designation for excellence Friday morning as a "School to Watch." The Indiana Middle Level Education Association (IMLEA) the state office for Schools to Watch, and the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform gave the IPS Center for Inquiry School 84 the special recognition for academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, social equity, and organizational support and processes.
"What we provide our students each day is really above par,” said Kathleen Miller, School 84 principal. “We are proud to be part of the organization and have this recognition. Being the first IPS school is exciting to us. And being one of 14 in the state of Indiana means a lot."
Many high schools have booster clubs & strong parent involvement to provide pregame meals for their football teams. That support is often not available for city football teams. The Central Indiana Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) has partnered with Second Helpings this season to feed Indianapolis Public Schools varsity football teams pregame meals & provide character coaching.
The program feeds about 250 players a week at six schools (Attucks, Tech, Shortridge and Washington - plus charter schools Howe and Manual). Food prep starts on Thursdays at Second Helpings, a food rescue organization that makes about 4,000 prepared meals every week to be served to the hungry around Indianapolis. The Tech football team is served on Thursday nights. The other five schools receive their pregame meal on Friday.
Indy Politics talks with IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee on a number of topics ranging from the upcoming school referendum, disposition of Broad Ripple High School and other district properties, the recent fight at Tech High School which was blasted over social media as well as other controversies facing the district.
After Superintendent Lewis Ferebee joined Indianapolis Public Schools in 2013, one of his first accomplishments was determining that the district had a $8.4 million surplus rather than the ballooning deficit the prior administration reported.
But fast forward less than five years, and the district budget has gotten much tighter. Officials expect to spend about $21 million more than the district takes in this year. The deficit is so severe that district leaders are making the case to the voters on the November ballot that it needs $220 million more for operating expenses over eight years to continue meeting the needs of students.
Indianapolis Public Schools is moving forward with a year-long plan to study how best to reuse its two empty high school buildings.
Earlier this week the district issued a request for lease proposals to gauge potential interest in non-profit tenants for both Broad Ripple and John Marshall high schools.
A seventh grade girl is on a mission to reduce food waste at her Indianapolis school. Her work is now getting her national recognition.
Ella Comerford-Barnett attends Rousseau McClellan IPS School 91. She is passionate about recycling and wanted to start an effort at her school to reduce the amount of food that was ending up in the trash at the end of each lunch period.
She turned to her friend Sophie Raes to put together a plan to rescue unwrapped food and donate it to shelters and pantries. Their school principal gave them the green light.
Indianapolis Public Schools is trying to find a group to fill two empty high school buildings.
Eligible non-profit organizations can now apply to lease either John Marshall or Broad Ripple high schools.
Superintendent Lewis Ferebee says they are going to be picky about who they chose to do business with.
"We are really wide open into what we would consider, for not only the facility but also the community surrounding the facility. We want to ensure that its the best use for the community. Ultimately, this is an opportunity to generate revenue for the district. That would definitely be a positive, given our current financial landscape," Ferebee said.
Indianapolis Business Journal: IPS starts process of finding new uses for Broad Ripple, John Marshall high schools
Indianapolis Public Schools is now seeking proposals to transform the sites of two of its former high schools: Broad Ripple High School on the north side and John Marshall High School on the east side.
IPS is seeking proposals from not-for-profits, including charter schools, interested in leasing either of the two sites, giving entities a deadline of Oct. 11 to respond. IPS is asking for leases of at least 15,000 square feet of either building.
IPS is first seeking potential “civic and public uses” for the schools. But it also plans to study other opportunities, such as residential, retail or commercial opportunities.
The district said it will complete a market analysis by the end of 2018, and provide a public report in January. IPS said in a press release that it hopes the school board will make a final decision about the properties by summer 2019.
IPS owes taxpayers an independent, expert assessment of the Broad Ripple High School property before taking any action.
As members of the IPS school board, it has been frustrating and dismaying to read the coverage of Purdue Polytechnic’s interest in leasing a portion of Broad Ripple High School. Frustrating, because what has been reported is incomplete and misleading; dismaying, because of the fervor with which some are encouraging IPS to abandon our obligations to taxpayers and the community.