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Irvington Community Schools

Letters to the Editor
The Indianapolis Star
P.O. Box 145
Indianapolis, IN 46206-0145


Dear Editor:

Charter school funding has been in the headlines lately. Because the results of upcoming legislative action will affect actual Hoosier children, including those who attend Irvington Community Schools (ICS), it is important to get the facts straight.

Funding

It is true that charter schools receive the same funding per student for tuition support through the Indiana General Fund as traditional public schools. However, charters do not receive funding for transportation and facilities, which are directly supported by property taxes. This amounts to a funding gap of approximately $3,500 per student not provided charters.

While we take great pride in our lean operations on behalf of the state’s taxpayers, we believe that there is room to create a more level school funding playing field. Gov. Mike Pence’s proposal to provide an additional $1,500 per student to public charter schools, should it come to pass, will enable us to invest in curricular upgrades to maintain our success with academics.

Accountability

All Indiana public charter schools are held to rigorous accountability standards by the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) as well as by each school’s charter authorizer (we are proud to have the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office of Education Innovation as ours). This level of accountability exceeds that to which traditional public schools are held. Our charter is for seven years and it involves intense scrutiny by our authorizer including two-, four-, and six-year reviews. ICS is now in its 13th year of operation as one of the first charter schools in the state. (Reports are available at the mayor’s office website at http://oei.indy.gov/.)

“Public”

Charter schools are public schools and are held to the same academic standards as our sister traditional public schools – and then some, as noted above. As public schools, charters are required to offer every student who comes our way a seat. To do this fairly, and as mandated by the Indiana Code, a lottery system is in place to prevent enrollment favoritism.

A former Indianapolis Public School superintendent frequently accused charters of cherry-picking students. In our experience, that is far from the truth. As an Indiana public school, we cannot discriminate as to whom receives a seat in our classrooms, and behaviorally difficult students do indeed come our way. Significantly, students who are with us for more than two years eventually get on board with our cultural expectations (which we call “The Irvington Way”), and misbehavior trends in this particular student segment plummet dramatically. Our obligation is to work diligently with every incoming student, even those who have poor behavioral track records and have not been well managed at previous schools. In most cases, we are successful in stabilizing student behavior, emphasizing positive character development and leading them to greater academic achievement.

Nonprofit

Irvington Community School, Inc. is a grassroots public charter school founded by residents of the east side of Indianapolis, most hailing from Irvington. We are a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.(Sometimes we feel that we put the “non-” in nonprofit!) We are not affiliated with any state, regional, or national education management organization (EMO), nor do we have a foundation to rely upon for additional funding. And yet, we continue to offer a quality educational experience for the just-over 1,000 students who attend our schools each year. Worth noting, more than 60 percent of our students participate in the free and reduced cost National School Lunch Program; 25 percent are minority students; and 14 percent are special education students.

In 2014, ICS, Inc. received a “B” rating from the IDOE; in 2012, we achieved an “A.” In 2013, Irvington Preparatory Academy (IPA) was named a “Best High School” by U.S. News & World Report. Moreover, 93 percent of the students in IPA’s Class of 2014 committed to a post-secondary experience. Clearly, we are achieving our objective. What we are asking for is an informed legislative educational funding discussion not clouded by misconceptions and half-truths, and for appropriate legislative action that will allow charters to continue to improve the delivery of educational services to all children who rely on a quality public education.

Sincerely,
David J. Nidiffer
CEO/CFO
(317) 357-3770 x103
dnidiffer@ics-charter.org

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