The IPS Board of School Commissioners just approved (with a vote of 5-1 and one abstention) the district’s plan to share 2018 referendum funds with IPS Innovation charter schools. Several community members provided input during the public comment portion of Thursday’s Board action meeting.

Allocations will occur twice annually (December and June) to be aligned with when IPS receives funds.

“Ultimately, we believe this is the right thing to for students and staff — allowing all adults in the IPS family of schools access to compensation increases and all students access to services and supports,” said Johnson. “It’s also the right thing for our finances and future because it allows us to partner collaboratively with the legislature on an agreement and shows that we’re willing to do things differently to address concerns. It also positions us to shape a more financially viable outcome and a more sustainable future.”

All actions taken by the district since the passage of the 2018 operating referendum align with the question as presented to voters.

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Referendum sharing has been a consistent topic during the public comment portion of the IPS Board of School Commissioners Board Review and Action sessions.

IPS Innovation school parents — along with staff and some school leaders — have addressed the Board to express why the district’s sharing of funds from its 2018 operating referendum ($220 million over 8 years) with IPS Innovation schools is not only equitable, but the right thing to do for students and staff at these 25 schools.

Lawmakers have also weighed in. The district has heard, from its own conversations and those legislative advocacy partners have had, that referendum sharing is a topic of interest and concern for a number of state legislators.

While the IPS administration had already been working internally to model an equitable plan, in October IPS Board President Evan Hawkins requested the district expedite the plan for Board consideration.

On Tuesday, Nov. 9, IPS Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson presented the district’s referendum sharing proposal during the Board work session.

“This is a big decision, one that we have to get right,” said Supt. Johnson. “We made time to listen, study, and do a financial analysis by outside non-profit Education Resource Strategies — through our ERS study to analyze the funding gap. We want to do what’s right for kids; we also need to be responsible fiscal stewards and understand the budget implications.”

Highlights of the plan presented to the Board includes:

  • $500 per in-district resident student at 25 IPS Innovation schools, for roughly 10,000 students. This is a $5 million annual outlay across the IPS family of schools.
  • Built-in district recommended accountability and transparency, including:
  • Schools sharing data regarding use of any funds to support teachers and school-based staff — up to 3% based on the district recent collective bargaining agreement with the Indiana Education Association (IEA).
  • Schools providing verified use of Charter School Grant finding.

“I’m proud of the work that went into putting this plan together,” said Commissioner Hawkins. “Having the Innovation parents, staff and operators bring this issue to the table was critical. I believe that this proposal takes into consideration their voices and the budget.”

Many have wondered why IPS Innovations schools weren’t automatically included in the distribution of operating referendum funds. 

The Gray Area – 2018 Referenda

In 2018, voters approved two multi-million public questions:

  • An operating referendum for $220 million, with the primary use for teacher/educator compensation and funding for schools through the School Based allocation (SBA) model for IPS in-LEA schools.
  • A $52 million capital referendum for safety and security upgrades to all IPS facilities.

Operating referendum funds (which last for eight years) are set to expire in 2026.

However, after the approval of the referenda, an outstanding question remained: Who is included in the operating referendum: Only schools in the IPS LEA or all schools in the IPS portfolio?  

Under the former administration, the 2018 financial analysis did not include modeling for the entire family of schools (specifically IPS non-LEA schools), therefore additional analysis has been required. 

Because the original operating referendum ask didn’t include non-LEA schools and a $5 million annual outlay across the IPS family of schools, there will be a significant cost to the district. But the district is committed to being responsible stewards, putting IPS on a sustainable path.