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Indianapolis Voters Choose 'Reform'-Friendly School Board

Guest blog post by Jaclyn Zubrzycki @jzubrzycki

While folks are still trying to tease out the national and local implications of union leader Glenda Ritz's election night victory over current Indiana state superintendent and conservative darling Tony Bennett (who told my colleague Andrew Ujifusa that "driving education reform policy is probably my drug of choice" and who was a prominent voice in the nationwide movement to remake schools through performance pay for teachers, expanding charters, tuition vouchers, and other levers), the Indianapolis school board election told a different story.

Sam Odle, Caitlin Hannon, and Gayle Cosby were elected to the Indianapolis school board, the Indianapolis Star reports. And all three say the 31,700-student district needs big changes, while the three members who are leaving the board had tended to support Indianapolis Superintendent Eugene White. Here's how the Star reported the changes:

Three reform-minded newcomers to the Indianapolis Public School Board are expected to dramatically change the dynamic and direction of the district....

Community activists favoring school reform—groups such as Stand for Children and Democrats for Education Reform—rallied around Arnold, Cosby, Hannon, and Odle during the campaign. Three of them—Hannon, Odle, and Cosby—raised at least $15,000 each during the campaign, unheard-of amounts for an IPS board race.

They also share some ideas about how to improve IPS, backing expanded preschool, increased autonomy for schools, more transparency in budgeting, and reduced bureaucracy.

Those ideas also are largely in line with a reform plan put forward last December by The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based school reform group. That plan prompted much community discussion, including a just-completed, two-month effort in conjunction with the mayor's office, the district and six community groups aimed at gathering community input about education.

My colleague Christina Samuels reported on the Mind Trust report earlier this year. That report didn't sit well with Superintendent White, but he remains in charge of the district. The Indianapolis Star's editorial board described the new election as a challenge for Superintendent White—who has been Indiana's superintendent of the year twice. It should be an interesting school year in Indianapolis.

Unusually large amounts of money also showed up in the school board race in New Orleans this year—and the well-funded candidate aligned with education reform also won that race.

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