In enrollment and size its the largest individual school district in Indiana. But though its enrollment is some 30,800, just 11 less than last school year, the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) serves just 20% of the 153,000 public school students in Indiana’s capital city. Nevertheless, interest about the fate of IPS among the residents of Indianapolis/Marion County, whether or not they live within the boundaries of the Indianapolis Public Schools District, remains high. In a special series of interviews, Afternoons with Amos interviewed the candidates running for the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners (School Board). As a district, IPS is troubled. Four of its schools were taken over by the State three years ago. An action that was controversial then and remains so today. Many IPS buildings are under utilized. And while enrollment has stabilized, thousands of children have left the district over the past forty years.
Currently, IPS is a majority-minority district. Some 52.2% of the district’s students are African-American, the second highest percentage of any Marion County school district. Hispanics comprise 21.9% of the district, highest Hispanic percentage of any city/county district. Whites comprise just 20.4% of IPS students. Some 82% of IPS students are eligible for free/reduced lunch, the highest percentage of any city/county school district. Slightly over two-third (68.4%) of IPS students graduated on time from high school. And a little more than half of IPS students (51.6%) passed both Math and English/Language Arts ISTEP. Afternoons with Amos interviewed nine of the ten candidates for IPS School Board. In District 3 incumbent Samantha Adair-White faces former board member Kelly Bentley and newcomer James Turner.
District 3 is basically the northside of the IPS District including the following neighborhoods: Butler-Tarkington, Meridian-Kessler, Glendale, Meadows, Broad Ripple, Mapleton-Fall Creek, some of the Devon area, Martindale-Brightwood and Forest Manor. In District 5 incumbent Rev. Michael Brown faces newcomer Lanier Echols. Distrct 5 incorporates the western part of the IPS District, including the following neighborhoods: some of Downtown, Old Northside, Fall Creek Place, UNWA, Riverside, Crown Hill, Eagledale, and westside neighborhoods north of Speedway out 30th, 34th and 38th Streets to I-465. In the first hour of the Afternoons with Amos interviews with IPS Board Candidates, the candidates for District 3 covered a number of issues.
The three agreed that IPS should change their policy to inform the public when persons are arrested bringing dangerous weapons to a IPS school. They somewhat agreed that IPS should do a better job recruiting and attracting Hispanic administrators. Though the candidates agreed about the difficulty of recruiting Hispanics, Blacks and other minorities to the teaching profession. The issue of big money and outside groups is a major issue in the IPS Board Campaigns. Kelly Bentley defended the support she’s receiving from the special interest group Stand for Children which has spent thousands sending our direct mail on her behalf. However, Bentley did acknowledge that she was uncomfortable with Stand for Children sending out campaign literature she has no knowledge or of or control over.
Campaign financing was a key issue in the interviews with the IPS District 5 candidates Lanier Echols and incumbent Michael Brown. Echols, a 2008 graduate of Florida State University confirmed that fact when Amos revealed it publicly for the first time on Afternoons with Amos. Echols, if elected, would be the youngest IPS Board member in at least 50 years; possibly the youngest ever. Younger than Richard Lugar was when he was elected to the IPS Board at the age of 32 in 1964. Asked by a caller about her working as Dean of Students at a charter school and the conflict of interests that could pose, Echols said she’d recuse herself on votes where IPS might partner with her employer the Carpe Diem Charter School.
Echols defended Stand for Children spending thousands in ads over which she has no say or control, claiming she couldn’t stop them from doing it. Both Brown and Echols agreed with that IPS should have a policy to inform the public when persons are arrested with dangerous weapons at IPS schools. On the issue of spending more IPS money in the classroom, Echols said claimed 40% of IPS funds aren’t spent in the classroom. Brown countered by saying that 92% of IPS funding goes for salaries, including the salaries of custodians, bus drivers and others who play just as important a role as teachers. Click the Media Player to hear the Afternoons with Amos Interviews With District 3 and 5 Candidates for the IPS School Board. ©2014 WTLC/Radio One. Candidates Samantha Adair-White, Kelly Bentley, James Turner. Runs 48 Minutes. Candidates Michael Brown, Lanier Echols. Runs 48 Minutes.