Out-of-state donors don’t appear to be spending big on the Indianapolis Public Schools board race this time around.
Incumbent candidates for Indianapolis Public Schools board are swamping their challengers when it comes to fundraising, but this election has drawn far less money than other recent races.
Pro-reform candidates are raking in tens of thousands of dollars in donations from local advocates who have been pushing the district to embrace school reform policies and partnerships with charter schools for years, according to fundraising reports filed last week. But unlike in recent elections, there hasn’t been a big influx of cash from out of state.
Out-of-state donors have played a contentious role in the last two elections, donating big to some candidates and inspiring backlash from people who say that money is playing too big a role in school board races. But either out-of-state donors are less interested in spending this time around — when the board is solidly in the hands of reform advocates and races elsewhere are more exciting — or the candidates are wary of the optics of taking their donations.
Instead, the largest contributions have come from local philanthropist and businessman Al Hubbard and political action committees associated with the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors.
The top fundraisers are the candidates who have won support from school reformers and endorsements from the advocacy group Stand for Children. They include incumbents Sam Odle (who has raised $25,626), Michael O’Connor ($22,443) and Diane Arnold ($16,354), and newcomer Venita Moore ($23,448).
Their fundraising dwarfs that of other candidates, who have raised hundreds of dollars or less. The only other contender who has raised more than $1,000 is Jim Grim, who is running against Odle for a seat representing the entire district. Grim has raised $4,805 so far.
Friday was the deadline for filing fundraising reports with the Marion County Election Board. Seven of the 10 candidates submitted reports, which are required if a candidate collects or spends more than $500. Candidates will file final reports after the election.
The reports don’t include spending from advocacy groups such as Stand for Children, which are not required to report campaign spending to the county. That doesn’t mean those groups aren’t investing in the election: Stand has sent mailers for the candidates it endorsed, and in past races it has hired workers to promote them at the polls on election day.
Most candidates appear to have coalesced into slates. The three incumbents and Venita Moore, who have received donations and support from pro-reform advocates including Stand, will send out a combined mailer. Moore, O’Connor and Arnold each gave $3,795 to Odle’s campaign for the mailers, inflating the total he reported raising to $37,011.
On the other side, four candidates endorsed by Concerned Clergy and OurIPS, a new group formed to unseat incumbent board members, seem to have banded together. Green signs endorsing Grim, who is running districtwide, and the other candidates endorsed by the groups can be spotted across the district.
At-Large District: Sam Odle vastly out fundraises competition
Although Odle faces the prospect of a potentially tough race against two well-established challengers, he has raised far more money than either of them. Odle raised $25,626, excluding the contributions he got from other candidates for campaign materials. That’s actually significantly less than his last campaign when he had raised about $41,500 by this point in the election.
Odle’s largest contribution came from Hubbard, who donated $5,000. He also received large donations the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce PAC, which donated $4,250, and Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors PAC, which donated $2,000 in cash and voter files worth $2,224. Attorney Greg Hahn and Citizens for Excellence in Government each donated $1,000.
Grim, an IUPUI staffer and education advocate who is challenging Odle for his seat, has raised $4,805. Most of his reported cash came from smaller donations of between $25 and $200. His largest contributions were $1,000 each from Jonathan Atkins, who works in finance, and Mary Jo Dare, who is retired.
Elizabeth Gore, a former school board president who is running against Odle for a seat representing the entire district, raised $250.
Nearly all of the reported donations for the candidates came from Hoosiers. The only out-of-state donations were from a handful of individuals who contributed less than $200 each to Odle’s and Grim’s campaigns.
District 1: O’Connor out raises opponent by more than $20,000
O’Connor is running his first race for the board after he was appointed last year when Caitlin Hannon left. He has raised $22,443 so far, and only reported one out-of-state contribution.
O’Connor’s largest contribution came from an Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce PAC, which donated $4,250 and the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors PAC, which donated $2,000 in cash and voter files worth $418. He also received big checks from several individuals: Developer Darell Zink donated $3,000, Al Hubbard donated $2,500, physician David Brokaw donated $2,000, former-Indianapolis mayor Bart Peterson donated $1,000, Eli Lilly and Company CEO John Lechleiter donated $1,000, the Indianapolis Colts donated $1,000, attorney John Hammond III donated $1,000 and Pacers executive James Morris donated $1,000.
His only challenger, registered nurse Chris Prince, has raised just $50 so far.
District 2: Newcomer Moore raises big cash
Three candidates with deep connections to the district are vying for the seat currently held by Gayle Cosby, but the only one who has raised significant cash is Moore.
A business consultant and IPS graduate, Moore has raised $23,448. Like many of the incumbents, she received large donations from the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce PAC, which contributed $5,000, and the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors PAC, which contributed $2,000 in cash and voter files worth $463. Businessman Reid Litwack and Liz Lahr donated $2,000, a Texas-based company called McConnell, Jones, Lanier & Murphy contributed $1,800 and her company Engaging Solutions donated $1,000.
Ramon Batts, a teacher and returning candidate, has raised $950. Nanci Lacy, an IPS parent and education advocate, did not file a report but said she has raised $90.
District 4: Arnold raises more than ever before
Arnold, who is facing off against protester Larry Vaughn in this election, apparently felt enough pressure to tap into the funding that has helped propel other school reform advocates to victory in recent elections. She has raised $16,354 so far.
Her largest contributions came from the same set of donors that supported other incumbents. She received $5,000 from Hubbard, $4,250 from the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce PAC and $2,000 in cash and voter files worth $239 from the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors PAC. She also received $2,000 from Steel House, a metal warehouse run by Litwack.
Her challenger Vaughn did not file a fundraising report with the county.