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IPS candidates raking in funds from near and far

October 19, 2014
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The big money so far in the Indianapolis Public Schools board race is going to challengers, who share common ideas for changing the district, over the incumbents.

Money flowing into the race is coming both from local activists and high-profile national figures, such as Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Today was the deadline to file fundraising reports to the Marion County Election Board. Final reports will be filed after the Nov. 4 election.

The top fundraisers so far are former State Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan with more than $50,000, ex-school board member Kelly Bentley with more than $40,000, charter school dean LaNier Echols with more than $30,000 and Light of the World Christian Church Pastor David Hampton, who has brought in more than $20,000. All four favor increased autonomy for building principals, revamping teacher pay and partnering with charter schools.

Sullivan and Hampton are challenging school board president Annie Roof, who raised $4,200. Bentley is running against board member Samantha Adair-White, who has $1,100. Echols will go up against board member Michael Brown, who has about $420.

Overall, the seven challengers raised nearly $150,000. The incumbents raised about $6,000 between the three of them.

Campaign finance has become a central issue in the IPS school board race ever since an expensive 2012 election helped elect three new board members. Some candidates, like Roof, have criticized the high-dollar gifts and vowed not to accept any money from outside of Indiana.

The candidates’ campaign coffers are being filled by Indianapolis philanthropists, businesspeople and national education advocates, according to their financial filings.

There’s also money being spent on the race by advocacy organizations like Stand for Children, which doesn’t have to report to the county. Stand for Children is running its own campaigns backing Sullivan, Bentley and Echols by paying for advertisements on their behalf.

Here is what the candidates have raised so far, and who’s supporting them:

At-Large District: Sullivan and Hampton lead the way in fundraising

Sullivan, a veteran campaigner, won endorsements from groups like Stand for Children and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. She has earned $51,447 so far in contributions.

Notable contributions to her campaign include: $8,400 from Indy Chamber’s political action committee, $5,000 from Indianapolis philanthropist Al Hubbard, $2,000 from Christel House charter school founder Christel DeHaan, $500 from former Mayor Bart Peterson and $1,000 each from LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and his wife Michelle Yee. She’s also received in-kind donations from the Indy Chamber to help with consulting.

Hampton also has raised a significant amount: $22,105, with $8,000 coming from Hubbard and DeHaan, who gave him $5,000 and $3,000, respectively. Other notable contributions include $5,000 from Indianapolis attorney Lacy Johnson, $200 from State Rep. Greg Porter’s political action committee and $100 from former mayoral candidate Melina Kennedy.

Roof has raised about $4,200 so far. Her biggest contribution $2,200 from Barbara Barrick. She also received $589 from The Pfahler Group, where she works as a marketing coordinator.

Butler University economics instructor Josh Owens has raised $2,208, with all of his donations coming in at $250 or less and most coming from Indianapolis and his hometown of Shelbyville.

Pastor Ramon Batts, an IPS athletic coach, has raised $525, with most coming from Baptist Ministers Foresight Alliance.

District 3: Kelly Bentley’s contributions dwarf incumbent

Bentley, who has been endorsed by both the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and Stand for Children, reported she’s raised $41,723 so far, including nearly $10,000 in in-kind donations, dwarfing Samantha Adair-White’s $1,100. James Turner had not submitted his campaign finance filing by the Marion County Election Board’s 12 p.m. Friday deadline, according to a list of filings on its website.

Bentley’s contributions come from Indianapolis residents and education reform advocates across the country. Her biggest check came from Hubbard in the amount of $5,000. New York-based Stephen Suess gave her $2,500. (Suess is Bentley’s brother and the gift was website services, not cash.)

Her other notable contributions include: $1,500 from Stacy Schusterman, $1,000 each from LinkedIn’s Hoffman and wife Yee and $500 from Facebook’s Sandberg. Bentley has also received a $7,000 in-kind consulting donation from the Indy Chamber’s PAC and $4,000 from the Indianapolis metals warehouse Steel House.

Adair-White has raised $1,100 for her campaign, with more than half coming from her husband Jeffrey C. White.

District 5: Echols out-raises Brown by more than $30K

Can the longest serving school board member keep his seat on the board despite raising pennies compared to his challenger, whose contributions come from zip codes spanning from New York to California?

Michael Brown, who has served the Northwest side of the district since 1998, raised $310 for his campaign from July to October, with another $112 in cash that he started out with. Brown told Chalkbeat last month that he was confident in his grassroots support, but takes any challenger seriously.

LaNier Echols has friends with deep pockets.

Echols, a dean at Carpe Diem Meridian charter school who taught at IPS through Teach for America, has raked in more than $32,000 from April to Oct. 10. Intel Corp. founder and Teach for America board member Arthur Rock, who gave her $5,000, is her biggest contributor.

Notable contributions to her campaign include: $1,000 each from LinkedIn founder Hoffman and his wife Yee, $500 from Facebook’s Sandberg and $500 from Teach for America board member Suzanne Lehmann. (Disclosure: Lehmann is the chair of Chalkbeat’s board.)

She also received $7,000 in in-kind contributions from the Indy Chamber’s PAC for consulting, and another $1,200 in in-kind consulting from Washington D.C.-based Leadership for Educational Equity.

The election is Nov. 4. To read about the candidates’ positions on issues facing IPS, visit the interactive election tracker at http://in.chalkbeat.org/IPSelection2014.

Chalkbeat Indiana is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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