Indy Chamber recommends deep cuts for Indianapolis Public Schools

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce has recommended that Indianapolis Public Schools make significant cuts to its operations.

The chamber, which was conducting a review of the district’s operations, says the district can save up to $477 million in eight years by making reductions in areas such as central office staff and school bus operations.

“In many ways, we feel that what we’re proposing is a continuation of moves that IPS is already making,” chamber president and CEO Michael Huber said.

Some of the recommendations the chamber says IPS can make include reducing their central office staff by 50 percent, thinning out the teacher workforce by 12 percent and getting rid of excess facilities they don’t need, like their downtown administration building. Combined with other cost saving measures, the chamber contends the cuts would help the business community be more supportive of a $100 million referendum that would help increase teacher salaries by 16 percent and raise principal salaries to $150,000.

“Taxpayers especially in the business community would be willing to pay more taxes to a degree if they know that those dollars are going to paying teachers more and paying principals more. Tax increases that pay for expenses that could be reduced through efficiency measures are a tougher sell,” Huber said.

Earlier this spring, IPS proposed tax increases that would have raised nearly a billion dollars for the district in eight years. Eventually the district reduced that proposal to around $700 million. The chamber says even with the reduction, the burden would be too big for taxpayers.

IPS officials say the chamber’s recommendations may be a little shortsighted. In response to the recommendations, IPS superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee issued a statement that read in part:

"The call to close a devastating number of our schools in some of Indianapolis’ most challenged neighborhoods with very little public process is concerning. In addition to raising teacher compensation each year over the past three years, IPS has realized millions in savings through the sale of unneeded properties, right-sized our number of high schools and made a 30 percent cut in non-classroom personnel over the last few years. We look forward to working constructively with the Chamber’s team over the next several days as we work towards an agreed upon referendum amount and IPS is committed to further action to reduce unnecessary expenditures. We believe, however, that a responsible referendum request cannot be anchored solely in revenue from cost savings that to this point are on paper only."

The general counsel for the district, Ahmed Young, echoed Dr. Ferebee’s thoughts saying that the district is open to making tough decisions, but within the context of looking beyond numbers on paper.

“Our goal is to make sure that we can truly serve our students, across the district equitably,” Young said.

Young says IPS plans on issuing its own recommendations to the board of school commissioners for a vote later this month.

To view the Indy Chamber's full list of recommendations you can click here.