This month’s IPS agenda is rife with Innovation Network agreements, which are partnerships between IPS and charter school operators. There is one presentation scheduled for a proposed partnership with Herron High School (both downtown and Riverside locations). The other three slated Innovation Network schools have the documents already drawn up: Avondale Meadows Middle School, Elder Diggs Elementary #42, and Thomas Gregg Elementary #15.
The details of each arrangement vary from school to school. A partnership with Herron High School came as a surprise to many. A short announcement of the intended partnership was buried in the Herron High School newsletter – with no public announcement or any solicitation of feedback from Herron families. Community members are left wondering what’s in it for each party. IPS will benefit by being able to count Herron High School students in their enrollment numbers and are surely seeking a boost from counting Herron student’s test scores and graduation rates as part of their own. It appears that Herron may benefit from receiving IPS’s higher per-pupil student expenditure amount. This is an atypical partnership because typically IPS owns the building of the Innovation Network school, but this is not the case with Herron.
Similarly, Avondale Meadows Middle School owns their property, and thus their partnership will reap similar benefits to Herron’s. Avondale Meadows and Herron have been freestanding charter schools before pursuing a partnership with IPS. The difference is that they now will receive more funding (at the higher IPS student rate).
In the case of schools #42 and #15, these are historically traditional IPS schools that are being converted to an Innovation Network school status. In plain language, this means that IPS is contracting with a charter school operator company to run the school.
IPS Innovation Network partnerships are becoming the Sam’s Club of the charter school world. Small, independent charter schools operation costs are much higher than a large district like IPS. If a prospective charter school seeks membership in the IPS Sam’s Club, they either receive services like transportation, food service, special education and ELL teachers for free, OR their membership gets them the power of buying in bulk.
Rather than “innovate” with IPS, why don’t these charter schools use their authorizers (the Mayor’s Office or the Indiana Charter School Board) as a lever for buying in bulk with other similar schools?
If IPS continues ‘innovation’ at this pace, it will become a shell corporation, an umbrella simply offering some shelter and benefits to a slew of smaller charter school operators.
IPS truly needs to reinvent itself. Not by giving away precious resources to charter operators, but by investing in their teachers, giving true autonomy to educators with ideas, and revamping their ideas about curriculum. Sadly, instead IPS is innovating itself out of the business of providing a free, appropriate public education for all students.