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.


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