Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

IPS: Bring On The Competition

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

IPS superintendent Eugene White presides over a school board meeting in August.

Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent Eugene White drew a bright line Monday between the schools getting help from state-appointed turnaround operators and those the district currently controls, writing on the Hoosier Ed blog his district is “not afraid of competition”:

Fear of competition is not what drives us on our continuing path toward excellence — it’s the desire to provide low-income students with the variety of options available to their more affluent peers. IPS proudly offers more educational choices than any other Indiana school district… With the passage of the new voucher law, IPS could have seen dramatic student losses to private and parochial schools. Yet, IPS saw its lowest enrollment loss in years.

White’s message in the guest post echoed sentiments from an open letter he sent last month, in which he said “IPS will successfully compete for students because we have demonstrated that our district is home to some of the most unique and highest performing schools in Indiana.”

His vocal responses have irked state education officials in the past — including state superintendent Tony Bennett, who has called White’s protestations “disingenuous.”

IPS’s superintendent has been a vocal critic of the state interventions, criticizing the Indiana Department of Education’s performance metrics and moving to pull funding for extracurricular activities at the four Indianapolis schools now under control of private companies the state appointed. White even threatened a lawsuit against the state during the height of the takeover media frenzy.

Indeed, competition seemed to be the mot du jour on Monday, with editorial writers at the Times of Northwest Indiana arguing against this type of “defensive” response (without specifically calling out White):

The right response by public school officials is to become more competitive, rather than defensive, and improve the quality of education enough to lure students back.

School administrators and faculty in traditional public schools now must recognize that they can’t behave like a monopoly… Competition is good. It sharpens skills and inspires the entire team. In the end, this expansion of school choice and the competition it engenders should help improve the quality of education in all schools.


  • Guest #2

    I do find it interesting/frustrating, though, that as soon as IPS does something “competitive” (like when they announced that they would be pulling specialty programs from schools that will no longer be under IPS control), they are pounced upon in the media and by the DOE for “not putting children first” and having a “take my ball and go home” attitude. People can’t encourage IPS to “embrace competition” and then act surprised and appalled when IPS does something competitive like that.

    • Sandln Ronald

      If we were dealing with widgits, then I would agree with your argument, WIN by ANY means necessary. However, when children are involved, as the adults we must recognize the word “competition” takes on a slightly different meaning; a watered-down version where decision making should not only be influenced by the bottom line, but by the concept of what is best for the children as well. A more common example for you;

      SCENARIO: A parent (adult) who signed his twins (children) up for little league (competition) with a plan to get them on the best team, then told them to “sandbag” the try-out so other coaches didn’t know how good they were and they would be able to get on the parent’s team of choice.

      Nothing ILLEGAL going on here (maybe immoral)… however, an adult is making decisions and influencing children in a way that negatively effects them, all in a plan to WIN. No one expects Dr. White (who by the way refers to himself in the third person way too often for my comfort) to pay for these programs at Manuel, however it would be nice for him to work with the take-over company and state to somehow transfer the contract for ROTC, for example, that way the new operator can take-over the program, fund it, and be able to operate it at Manuel.

      Research shows that changing schools negatively effects a child’s probablity for academic success. With the extremely transient nature if IPS already, why add another layer to force even more students to move schools if they wish to continue their education in these programs. The attitude Dr. White seems to be taking is, “You want competition? I’ll give you competition!” This attitude is driven by adults who disagree on how a district/school system should be operated, and it is getting in the way of what is best for kids. Give these programs a chance to flourish under a new operator, IPS had their chance to make this work, they failed.

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