Revised version of IPS-backed ‘innovation’ school bill passes legislature (updated)

Indianapolis Public Schools’ Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is a step closer to getting a tool he says will help him provide more good school options for the district’s children.

A revised version of House Bill 1321, which gives IPS the authority to hand empty buildings over for charter schools to use, or to hire charter school operators to run an IPS school, passed the House today 59-32 and the Senate 30-18. It now heads to Gov. Mike Pence for his signature.

Under these “innovation school” partnerships, IPS could count partner schools’ test scores in district averages. Charters would get space in IPS buildings and possibly district services like transportation and special education as well.

The idea behind the bill, which Ferebee helped craft, has been aggressively challenged by unions and Democrats.

The Indiana State Teachers Union has argued House Bill 1321 creates a newly uneven playing field for teachers when it comes to their bargaining rights. The bill permits the charter operators to hire teachers for the schools they run — even if they remain IPS schools — and disregard the district’s union contract when deciding what the pay and benefits will be.

In 2012, annual teacher pay in Indianapolis charter school, on average, was $10,000 to $25,000 less than IPS.

Ferebee has backed the bill for giving the district a lever it can use to guide the location of some charter schools and a way to negotiate a share of state aid, or perhaps even a portion of outside grants that charter schools receive. It also gives IPS an option to share is building space, a large portion of which is unoccupied.