Earlier today (Aug. 21), the IPS Board of School Commissioners filed a declaratory judgment action with the Marion Superior Court to confirm that IPS is exempt from the application of I.C. 20-26-7.1 — commonly referred to as the “$1 Charter Law.”
In 2023, the Indiana General Assembly passed, and Governor Holcomb signed, Senate Enrolled Act 391 (SEA 391) that changed the $1 Charter Law in many ways including by adding an exemption for school corporations that share operating referendum funds with certain charter schools. IPS believes it meets this exemption. The General Assembly authorized such revenue sharing efforts in 2020, and IPS accordingly distributes millions of dollars each fiscal year to innovation charter partners that meet the SEA 391 requirements. IPS is the only school corporation in Indiana to voluntarily share its referendum funds with charter schools. Since 2015, when IPS was the first school district to partner with a charter school to create an innovation network school, Indianapolis Public Schools has expanded the number of innovation charter partners within its portfolio to 22 schools.
The Board of School Commissioners recently approved recommendations for reuse of facilities that were impacted by the district’s Rebuilding Stronger plan, a multi-year public process that included significant changes to IPS’s grade configurations, enrollment zones, program offerings, and capital investments. The Rebuilding Stronger plan was unveiled publicly in September 2022 and was unanimously approved by the IPS Board in November 2022. The plan outlined a bold vision for the future of IPS that required a public investment of financial resources to achieve. The Indianapolis community overwhelmingly approved a $410 million capital referendum at the ballot in May 2023 that will provide the resources necessary to successfully implement the Rebuilding Stronger plan. The plan builds on IPS’s previous efforts to right-size the district and invest in longstanding capital needs districtwide.
In July, the IPS Board authorized the administration to pursue the disposition of two buildings, Raymond Brandes School 65 and Francis Bellamy School 102. The administration identified VOICES as a prospective buyer for Francis Bellamy School 102. VOICES is a local non-profit with a mission and programs targeted to supporting local youth with educational, occupational, and developmental supports to enhance communities and break generational poverty. The VOICES team has earned a reputation for its work in addressing Black male mental health and supporting the creation of generational wealth in communities of color through comprehensive services and supports. In 2022-23, School 102 housed both a Pre-K and an alternative education program and had an enrollment of only 135 in a building designed to serve over 400 students.
“The IPS Board is committed to complying with Indiana law, believes it is doing so, and believes Indianapolis Public Schools qualifies for the exemption from the $1 Charter Law,” said Board President Venita Moore. “The IPS Board believes the courts will provide needed clarity regarding the exemption from the $1 Charter Law, and IPS will abide by the ultimate decision from Indiana courts.”