Indianapolis could get an influx of new charter and innovation schools, enrolling as many as 15,000 more students in the next seven years.
At least that’s the vision outlined by David Harris, CEO of the Mind Trust. The Indianapolis-based nonprofit aims to dramatically expand the number of what it considers “high-quality” schools in the city in coming years. To get there, the organization plans to help lure top education talent from Indianapolis and around the country to lead schools in the city. It plans to support new charter schools and to help charter school networks that are hoping to expand.
The group’s ambitions are big — to double the number of students within Indianapolis Public Schools boundaries who attend schools that are highly rated by the state, earning an A or B grade on the state’s grading system.
“I want every kid in our community to have access to a great school,” Harris said. “We think there’s a moral obligation to see that happen, and if we care about the health and vitality of the city, it’s important that that happen.”
The idea comes as education leaders are increasingly concerned that the education market is saturated in Indianapolis — with new charter schools struggling to fill seats. But Harris said he still sees room for more high-quality schools in underserved areas of the city.
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To bring his vision to life, Harris said the Mind Trust is looking to raise $32 million over the next three years to pay for the first half of the plan. It launched its campaign tonight, but the nonprofit has already raised about $17 million, including donations from national funders such as the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.
That funding will help launch new charter schools and innovation schools, which are considered part of IPS but are managed independently and are not unionized. In the past two years, IPS has restarted three failing neighborhood schools as innovation schools, in addition to converting successful schools and incorporating charter schools into the innovation network.
The Mind Trust has already given grants to several innovation schools, charter leaders and charter networks. But Harris said the campaign aims to increase funding dedicated to starting and supporting new schools.
The group does not have a target for the number of new or restarted schools it will fund, but it aims to create seats for about 15,000 more students in high-quality schools.
The fundraising campaign will also support community engagement work, including by giving schools money to hire staff to help parents better advocate for their children’s needs. Money will also go to programs designed to recruit and train principals, such as the new partnership with Relay Graduate School of Education.
“You are not going to have great schools, if you don’t have great school leaders,” Harris said. “We want to make sure that we continue to attract the caliber of talent that we have and we need.”