Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent: Great Leaders Need to Make Decisions About Their Schools

Commentary

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent: Great Leaders Need to Make Decisions About Their Schools

Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) superintendent Lewis Ferebee isn’t content with the status quo. Currently, principals lack autonomy over things like hiring, curriculum, and teacher development. IPS schools are also funded inequitably. According to Urban Leaders Fellowship, schools with the fewest low-income students receive 22% more funding than schools with the most low-income students.

To address these challenges, IPS will be piloting student-based budgeting next year as part of broader reforms aimed at decentralizing power across the district, which Reason’s Savannah Robinson previously wrote about.

According to Ferebee, “Great leaders need to be making those decisions about their schools. They have the local context. They know their students. We want to have the ability to make decisions about how to support them.”

Teacher salaries are at the heart of IPS’s funding inequities. For example, the average teacher salary at School 84 is $56,325 per year compared to $43,713 at School 15, despite the fact that the latter has a much larger population of low-income students.

Because IPS’s budgeting policies don’t allow School 15 to use these cost savings elsewhere (e.g. technology, longer school days, etc.) they essentially subsidize the district’s wealthier schools.

Undoubtedly, Indianapolis Public Schools is taking a big step in the right direction. Student-based budgeting would distribute funds more equitably and empower principals to align resource allocation with local priorities.

Read more here.

Aaron Garth Smith is an education policy analyst at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.