IPS seeks donations to address the ‘fundamentally inequitable’ coronavirus impact

Indianapolis Public Schools is launching a fundraising campaign to support its coronavirus response plan by purchasing technology for students, training teachers, and preparing for growing mental health needs.

The IPS Foundation, the district’s philanthropic partner, aims to raise money to help the district provide devices and ensure internet access for all students by the next academic year. The fund will also help with “rapid response” to serve the immediate needs of families affected by COVID-19.

And it will be used next academic year to support students who could face significant trauma from the coronavirus and gaps in learning.

“A number of our students will experience the brunt of this crisis because of the zip code that they happen to live in,” said Superintendent Aleesia Johnson, describing limited access to fresh food, the internet, and health care in many IPS neighborhoods. “It is fundamentally inequitable.”

Johnson pointed to data showing that many of the Marion County neighborhoods most at risk of getting severely sick from COVID-19 fall within IPS boundaries, according to an analysis based on age and socioeconomic factors from SAVI, a community information project of IUPUI. National data also shows that the coronavirus is infecting and killing black Americans at disproportionately high rates.

More than 65% of students in IPS qualify for free or reduced-price meals, and “this national health crisis is only going to emphasize those inequities,” said Stephannie Bailey, CEO of the IPS Foundation. “Our students and their families are going to face unprecedented social and emotional strains and needs.”

The announcement of the new fundraising push comes days after Indianapolis leaders announced a $2.6 million e-learning fund designed to help schools across the county, including IPS, adapt to remote instruction during campus closures. The IPS Foundation campaign is designed to fill the remaining gaps. Officials did not name a specific amount of money that they are hoping to raise.

Initial gifts to the IPS fund included $125,000 donations from Salesforce, a software company with a location in Indianapolis, and Chiefs for Change, a national organization Johnson is a member of that supports district leaders who favor policies including school choice, culturally diverse curriculum, and tough accountability standards.