IPS may ask taxpayers for more than $930 million over 8 years to improve schools, retain teachers

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -The leaders of Indianapolis Public Schools may ask taxpayers for nearly $1 billion to make school improvements and retain talented teachers.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee announced the district is considering two referendums on FOX59 Live at Five Thursday. One referendum would bring in $200 million for capital improvements like improving school facilities, making safety enhancements and upgrading classroom technology.

The second referendum hopes to raise $736 million for the district over eight years for teacher salaries, academic programs and support for special needs students.

According to numbers released by IPS, a person who owns a $123,500 home – the median home value in the district- would pay $28.45 extra per month. A person who owns a $300,000 home –near the average for a downtown home – would pay $69.10 extra each month. These estimated amounts factor in the homestead deduction. If a homeowner rents out his or her property, they are not eligible for the homestead deduction and may have to pay more.

“We need to be able to attract and retain high quality teachers right here in Indianapolis Public Schools,” said Ahmed Young, chief of staff and general counsel for IPS. “We’ll be able to offer competitive salaries not only for novice teachers but for those mid-range and mid-tier teachers who have some years of experience in the classroom.”

This comes months after research released by IPS showed a trend of young professionals moving out of the district once their children reached school-age. The research also revealed IPS faces increasing competition from private, charter and township schools.

“Ultimately in order for Indianapolis to be successful and not only attract those young professionals but keep them right in the core of the city we need to make sure we’re able to offer them high quality educational options for their children,” Young said.

FOX59 talked to several parents in the downtown area Friday about their reactions to the announcement.

“If we all share that burden, then that will set us up for future success,” said Russ Newtown, a homeowner in the Herron Morton neighborhood who has a seven-month-old son. “We need to do the right thing for all of our children.”

While his own son is an infant, he says he looks forward to being able to send him to an IPS school later on.

“While not everyone has children in the schools system currently, I think it’s extremely important that we consider long term impacts and benefits,” Newton said.

Another parent said he is noticing a trend of more young families choosing to remain in the district long term.

“We’ve been here in this neighborhood for ten years and the dynamics now are that people with school age children are staying and investing in the area,” said Ryan Smith, a downtown homeowner and father to two girls in elementary school.

“Ultimately in order for Indianapolis to be successful and not only attract those young professionals but keep them right in the core of the city we need to make sure we’re able to offer them high quality educational options for their children,” Young said.

There are two public hearings scheduled on the referendum topic for December 12 and December 14 at 6 p.m. at the John Morton-Finney Center for Educational Services located at 120 E. Walnut St., Indianapolis.

Those interested in speaking will need to sign up ahead of time. If passed by the school board, the referendums would be on the May ballot.