2022 Newsmaker: Superintendent lays out changes, tax hike for IPS

Aleesia Johnson (IBJ file photo)

When Aleesia Johnson became superintendent at Indianapolis Public Schools nearly four years ago, she was tasked with a long list of must-dos.

Raise teacher pay. Improve teacher retention. Improve energy-efficiency throughout the system. Find and direct as much money as possible to the classroom.

By most accounts, Johnson and her team at IPS are delivering on all these fronts. Teacher retention, for instance, rose to 83.9% last year from 70.9% in 2017.

This fall, she began making one more big push to try to remove educational inequities among IPS schools and make quality learning choices accessible to all students.

Her plan, Rebuilding Stronger, has caused quite a stir, largely because of its sweeping scope.

Under the plan, seven schools would close at the end of the current academic year, three of which would merge into existing schools.

The district also is proposing to reconfigure K-6, K-8 and 7-8 schools into K-5 and 6-8 schools. Some previously closed schools would reopen under a reconfiguration, including Broad Ripple Middle School, which would operate in the old Broad Ripple High School building.

The plan also will put two referendums on next May’s ballot that, if approved by voters, could generate $410 million in capital funding and $50 million in annual operating funding for eight years. Under the plan, the median homeowner in the IPS district would see a property tax increase of about $6 per month.

A review of the educational opportunities at schools throughout IPS showed inequities that Johnson said she wants to fix.

“We were able to show in the data that there were existing disparities between experiences and classes that some students had access to at some schools that other students didn’t at other schools,” Johnson told IBJ’s Inside INdiana Business
in October.

“There were differences in the level of mobility that some of our schools experience,” she added. “So this idea of having a plan that will address those things that will allow more students to have access to more opportunity has definitely been something that people have been very excited about.”

Just how excited? We’ll find out in May, when voters decide whether to approve referendums to help fund the plan.

But even if the referendums are rejected, Johnson has said parts of the Rebuilding Stronger plan could still move forward, including school consolidations.•

Check out more 2022 Newsmakers.

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