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Indy Chamber previews IPS assessment this week

Some good news on talent as an economic priority over the last two weeks: An analysis led by Richard Florida shows Indy #2 among major metros in recent gains in college-educated adults (2012-2016), a double-digit increase in our share of adults with a bachelor’s or above.

And to enhance accessibility for post-secondary credentials and degrees locally – keeping attainment numbers moving in the right direction – Mayor Hogsett announced the new ‘Indy Achieves’ initiative in mid-June.  (We wholeheartedly support the aims of Indy Achieves, even though it cost us our Director of Policy & Civic Engagement, Matt Impink, who left to serve as Executive Director – congratulations, Matt.)

But these efforts to promote college and career success rely on the results of our K-12 system; the future of local workforce and economic development is tied to the progress of largest school district, Indianapolis Public Schools.  But today, the future of IPS is uncertain.

Over the last hundred days, the Chamber has partnered IPS and a team of expert consultants to conduct a comprehensive financial and operational assessment of the district (reported back in March).  This analysis aspires to blaze a trail through challenging terrain – IPS is making major strides in academics, but faces ongoing structural deficits and teacher turnover as salaries lag other districts.  But closing the existing budget gap and making compensation competitive is more than the tax base can bear by referendum.

We’re working to change the equation by identifying ways for the district to work more efficiently, cut non-classroom costs and build a new financial model that features significant raises for teachers and principals and long-term budget stability, financed with a realistic referendum that doesn’t damage our business climate.

Elementary education used to preach the “three Rs” – our goals for this assessment might be summed up as the three Ps: Promote efficiency, pay educators more, and protect taxpayers.

Last night, we previewed this work for the IPS Board of Commissioners.  After the presentation, Michael Huber made a statement that said, in part:

“We’ve identified dozens of recommendations that add up to hundreds of millions of dollars in potential savings…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.”

Read the full statement here, and check out the presentation made to the IPS Board here.

Coverage of the meeting was fairly positive – read more at Chalkbeat and a detailed story from WFYI.

We expect to finalize the assessment report in the next two weeks as we continue to work closely with Superintendent Ferebee and his team; stay tuned for more on this critical project.

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