IBJ accidentally and perfectly captures our challenge and opportunity through two very different articles [March 30]. On the front page, a story boasts about the historical, financial, and human capital it takes for Indianapolis to welcome close to 80,000 people for the Final Four and generate $71 million. Buried in a caption on page 23 is this nugget: “unless the city can attract high-income residents, it will suffer from rising demands for public services and less taxable income to pay for them.”
The accompanying map indicates a decimated housing market. The suburbs have $200,000 homes (18 percent in Clay Township). In five Marion County townships—including the one home to the Final Four and visitors—the percentage of household incomes above $200,000 is less than 1.5 percent. This is troubling for a city seeking to retain and attract residents.
Like an unbeaten team still dunking on its opponents, the suburbs want even more. The so-called Fix It Coalition [Feb. 21] wants the Statehouse to provide already wealthy schools districts even more money, not by adding more money to public education, but by redistributing money away from other school districts. It’s like unbeaten Kentucky saying the system is unfair.
This is no way to govern or lead. If we can spend time and energy to host a one-and-done Final Four, we have the resources to do something here, too.
It’s called education. We know great teachers transform classrooms into laboratories of success, and we know great schools support local communities. Nearly 80 percent of our students attend township and IPS schools. The Mayor’s Office—this one or the next—should capitalize on that capacity and our momentum and begin to reward and recruit great teaching.
The Mayor’s Office should create and offer the Indianapolis Prize in Great Teaching. Each school district or network can nominate two teachers to each compete for a $10,000 prize. Like confetti after winning the national championship, this is fancy.
The Mayor’s Office also should support school districts to recruit and retain great teachers. What works, and how can we duplicate and scale that? Make it worthwhile. Graduate from an Indianapolis high school, attend an Indiana college, return to Indianapolis to teach, and receive a living stipend. Let’s build our $200,000 homes by supporting our teachers—the very people who build our communities. Effective teachers would receive an annual residency bonus, complimentary mass transit pass, and tickets and honors to local events. Like the Final Four, local companies could sponsor those costs and link their brand to the pursuit of the excellence in classroom instruction. Like a two-on-one fast break, this is fancy and fundamental.