Indy Chamber Previews IPS Assessment to Reshape Operating Referendum

The Indy Chamber and its team of consultants previewed a sweeping financial and operational assessment of the Indianapolis Public Schools at tonight’s IPS board meeting.  While the report is still being finalized, it has identified more than 50 cost-cutting recommendations to allow the district to reduce its proposed operating referendum while investing in teacher pay and academic programs.

The Board of Commissioners tabled action on the capital and operating referenda in March, supporting an outside review led by the Chamber to find opportunities to close its budget gap, minimize the potential impact on taxpayers and maximize resources and results in the classroom.

IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee and the board have already cut the capital referendum plan from $200M to $52M for building modernization and safety needs.  The Indy Chamber analysis, developed with FaegreBD Consulting and Policy Analytics LLC, studies the issues behind the operating referendum to develop a realistic strategy for long-term fiscal stability.

Huber made the following statement after the presentation to the IPS Board of Commissioners:

“Tonight we previewed a financial assessment of the Indianapolis Public Schools that balances our most important priorities – continued academic progress and educational options for IPS students and families, recruiting and retaining outstanding teachers and principals, and protecting the interests of local taxpayers.

“In just over a hundred days, our team of civic leaders and experts has worked closely with Superintendent Ferebee and his staff to look across transportation, facilities, central office operations and staffing, as well as areas like compensation where new investments may be necessary.  We’ve identified dozens of recommendations that add up to hundreds of millions of dollars in potential savings and a new financial model for IPS.

“We find more can be done to ‘right-size’ central office and non-classroom staffing to match today’s system of traditional, magnet and innovation schools.  We’ve looked at what other urban districts are doing to manage transportation costs by partnering with public transit systems, and the steps that other major employers are taking to deal with healthcare costs.  Not all of these options will be easy, or popular.

“We’ve focused on efficiency for a reasonable referendum request, but our analysis isn’t just about budget cuts.  Competitive compensation for our educators has to be a priority.  Great teachers and principals make great schools, and they should be paid accordingly.

“The Indy Chamber took on this work believing that the future of IPS is the future of Indianapolis, and we can best support our largest school system by driving this process forward while the district stays focused on preparing its students for college and career success.  A strong business climate demands high-performing schools and competitive tax rates, and we’re close to delivering a realistic blueprint for achieving both.”

The Indy Chamber and its consulting partners expect to finalize and release the detailed assessment report in the coming weeks.  The overview presentation from tonight’s meeting can be viewed and downloaded here.

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