• IPS Community Coalition

Does Indianapolis Really Want An Entirely Privatized School System?

by John Harris Loflin

What started out as a 2002 push for a few local charters has grown. Now, Indy is home of America's 2nd most privatized public school system. New Orleans Public Schools is ranked first where every school is privatized after the massive damage of hurricane Katrina.

Local citizens were not told back when the 2011 Mind Trust Opportunity Schools report came out, that possibly in 10 years 63.7% of Indianapolis students would be in privatized schools. For more on charters, read: Portfolio models: private ways of running public schools. Check out the IPS Portfolio Management scheme here.

Bait & Switch

In 2018, citizens were told Broad Ripple, Northwest, and Arlington high schools had to be closed due to declining enrollment. However, what alumni and citizens were not told is that as soon as these 3 high schools close, the city/IPS/The Mind Trust were going to open up a bunch of other high schools.

Perhaps if citizens were told this, Broad Ripple, Northwest, and Arlington would still be open. Here are the facts: waiting backstage were many smaller, privatized high schools where these purported low numbers of students are now enrolled. One of them is even using part of Broad Ripple high school this year. With the future of Howe undetermined and Manual becoming privatized, here is the current bevy of local privatized high schools:


--Purdue Polytechnic Central

--Purdue Polytechnic North



--Victory College Prep

--Rooted School

--Performing Arts Academy

--Thrival Indy Academy

--Believe Circle City

This specific dismantling of the district was done so smoothly, people hardly noticed the shell game.

What is tragic is that Broad Ripple, Arlington or Northwest alumni will never get a chance to vie for local/state championships/awards in sports, music, academics, the arts, debate or other competitions, and important connections to community have been trivialized and erased.

The Indianapolis charter school experiment

IPS teaches its students that to trust science or social science theories, studies, or ideas, an analysis of the truth and viability of such research and conclusions must be rigorous, lengthy, and peer-reviewed.

Regarding current Indy charters, many of the concepts, curricula, and programs are not backed by years of peer-reviewed research (showing graduates went on to careers or to graduate from college, becoming productive critically conscious citizens) that would justify their implementation. Purdue Polytechnic, Matchbook Learning, pilotED, Ignite Achievement Academy, and Rooted school, Thrival, and Invent Learning Hub are some examples.

The Rooted School experiment

The Rooted School opened its doors in just 2017 in New Orleans. That’s not enough time to have a substantiated schooling concept, except maybe on paper.

The pilotEd Experiment

pilotED co-founders Jacob Allen, (Teach for America alum) and former English teacher Marie Dandie, have little to no experience being principals. They basically ran an afterschool program

Chicago which stated in 2013. This concept sounds good, but where is the longitudinal peer-reviewed research saying the schooling concept is viable in charter form? Also, did the Barrington neighborhood self-organize and search the US to find an appropriate school which happened to be pilotEd (https://www.piloted.org) and invite them in to use school 64? No. Indy education power brokers and pilotEd manipulated its way into Barrington.

The Thrival experiment

The first cohort of 11 students was started by Thrival in Oakland, CA in September of 2016. In 2017, the Thrival experiment expanded to Indianapolis at IPS Tech HS.

At minimum, a decade of peer-reviewed studies/research would be needed before the Thrival concept qualified for reproduction. This begs the question: why was the Indy Thrival experiment charter application accepted without any scientific support from a peer-reviewed longitudinal study showing that the concept was viable, let alone scalable?

The Matchbook Learning experiment

Matchbook Learning’s Sajan George, a favorite of the DeVos/Walton matrix, was given school No. 63 by IPS even though his programs were asked to leave Newark and Detroit schools. See: http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2017/07/billionaire-fave-matchbook-learning.html

The Purdue Polytechnic (PPHS) experiment

PPHS opened in the fall of 2017 in downtown Indy. Its website (https://pphs.purdue.edu/about) has a great sales pitch, but offers no years of peer-reviewed research on the “Polytechnic” concept. The most recent cohort has not had time to graduate from universities. Perhaps we will know in 15-20 years whether or not the PPHS concept lives up to its hype.

Regarding the Innovative schools in Indy experiment

IPS parents and supporters must unpack and interrogate the Innovation concept which looks like another way to wrestle away the voter’s direct democratic control of their public schools and turn them over to non-public (private)/unelected boards and their corporate supporters and funders.

The issue here is where is the 10 years of peer-reviewed research supporting Innovations? Please analyze the WFYI program, “Do Innovation Schools Work?

IPS parents and supporters must also look into any ALEC (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez2VWdI72os) connections to the Innovation Schools and School Districts Act.

National office vs. local NAACP on charters: Indy Branch ignores national policy. Why?

Notably, the national NAACP calls for a moratorium on charters. The national office suggests 6 problems with charter schools and 5 ideas for reshaping the sector.

“Charter schools were created with more flexibility because they were expected to innovate and infuse new ideas and creativity into the traditional public school system. However, this aspect of the promise never materialized. With the expansion of charter schools and their concentration in low-income communities, concerns have been raised within the African American community about the quality, accessibility and accountability of some charters, as well as their broader effects on the funding and management of school districts that serve most students of color." ~ NAACP Educational Taskforce.

Proposed Action Item

Begin a moratorium on charters/Innovation schools

IPS should gather citizens for a series of 3 televised and taped public debates on the pros and cons of having a 5-year moratorium on new charters and Innovation schools. The basis of the dialogue is the question: Does Indianapolis really want an entire privatized school public school system?

An independent group outside of IPS should sponsor legislation calling for a 5-year moratorium on Charters and Innovations.

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