School Finance

Detroit’s vicious cycle: Why national education groups aren’t coming to help some of the country’s most troubled schools

Photo from flickr/nitram242

With some of the nation’s most devastated schools, Detroit is in desperate need of new ideas, new energy — and lots of money.

But when local advocates approach organizations that have invested millions of dollars — and countless hours of problem-solving — into jumpstarting schools in cities like Washington, Memphis, Indianapolis, and New Orleans, the answer often comes back the same:

No. Not Detroit. Not now.

“It’s been a struggle for sure,” said Dan Varner, the CEO of Excellent Schools Detroit, who says he’s approached “dozens” of deep-pocketed philanthropies like the Gates Foundation, prominent education organizations that boost schools around the country, and charter networks that run successful schools in other cities.

“We were looking for real substantive help and all of them have poked around and have done their homework and have decided not to [come].”

Plenty of Detroiters say that’s a good thing. They point to SWAT teams of education “reformers” who’ve promised to fix urban schools, only to be accused of trampling democracy — as happened recently in Newark when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg poured $100 million into schools and angered many locals in the process.

But Varner and others see an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of cities like New York, which turned to national funders to overhaul high schools, and Memphis, where foundation funding spurred a sweeping effort to improve teaching.

Detroit in many ways seems like exactly the kind of city that attracts investment from school reformers. The city has intensive needs, schools that rank among the worst in the nation, and an open-door policy for charter schools, which are often a magnet for money and attention.

But instead of investing in Detroit, many national players have either shunned the city — or pulled out in the face of disappointing results. They cite a chaotic school landscape with little quality control and a divisive political environment that has resulted in no clear plan for fixing local schools.

That has created a vicious cycle for Detroit: As its schools have gotten worse, so have its chances for attracting outside help.

“Cities that have the degree of dysfunction as Detroit need to do things differently, and that usually requires investment — investing in teacher quality, investing in leadership, investing in incubators to develop home-grown schools that can be really exceptional,” said Robin Lake, a national education researcher and the head of the Center on Reinventing Public Education who has written about challenges facing Detroit schools. “That takes money. That takes startup funds, and in most cities that money is coming from private foundations.”

* * *

Education philanthropy hasn’t always steered clear of Detroit.

National philanthropists poured more than $45 million into a state-run school district that, in 2012, took over 15 Detroit public schools. Billionaire Eli Broad, a Detroit native who made a fortune in real estate and insurance, led the effort to support the district, the Education Achievement Authority.

But the politically turbulent experiment drew strong opposition from teachers unions and community members who saw it as a power grab by Gov. Rick Snyder. Now, the EAA schools are expected to be returned to the Detroit Public Schools next year, and many of the foundations that backed the effort seem to have lost interest in putting large sums of money into Detroit education.

While the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation is still funding the EAA and initiatives that help individual Detroit students, the foundation has largely turned its attention to other cities like Los Angeles, where the foundation is based.

Eli Broad speaks at Michigan State University. Photo from flickr/arcticpenguin
Eli Broad speaks at Michigan State University. Photo from flickr/arcticpenguin

The Walton Family Foundation had been a major supporter of local charter schools and of advocacy groups like Excellent Schools Detroit. The foundation spent $1.9 million on Detroit education programs in 2014 and about $1 million in 2015. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat. Learn more about our funding here.)

But when Walton announced two spending sprees this year — including $1 billion for school choice initiatives and $250 million for charter school construction — Detroit was not among the eligible cities.

“Over time, there has been a developing skepticism about the future of Detroit,” said Paul Pastorek, a former Louisiana state superintendent who was a top consultant to the Broad Foundation during its time of heavy investment in Michigan. “I don’t think the national philanthropies will abandon it, but I do think it will take some time to develop a confidence level so that people will come back to Detroit.”

Foundations aren’t the only ones avoiding Detroit. Major charter school networks — like the high-performing KIPP schools — have also stayed away.

“It’s not just national investment, but it’s the best schools in the country,” said Ethan Gray, the CEO of Education Cities, a national network of local education advocacy groups. “They are not looking at Detroit right now for the very simple reason that Detroit has not demonstrated a sufficient commitment to school quality.”

Michigan has some of the most charter-friendly policies in the nation, which put few restrictions on how many schools can open or where they can locate.

These policies have helped transform Detroit into a city of competing school systems. Today, nearly 100 city schools are run by the Detroit Public Schools district, 15 schools are run by the Education Achievement Authority, and nearly 100 are run by mostly for-profit charter school management organizations overseen by 12 different authorizers.

The setup gives families many schools to choose from. But so many schools have opened that the city has an estimated 30,000 empty classroom seats  — an oversupply that forces public and charter schools alike to bleed resources while they scramble for enough students and funding to keep the lights on.

And school quality has suffered. Detroit schools have some of the lowest test scores in the state, with just 10 schools in the city — six selective public schools and four charter schools — scoring above average on the state’s last top-to bottom ranking in 2014.

So when local schools advocates say they want charter school networks like KIPP to come to Detroit, it’s not because they think Detroit needs more schools. They’re hoping KIPP can bring needed resources such as teacher training programs that will ultimately benefit many schools, as teachers develop new skills and move to other schools throughout their careers.

“They bring an infrastructure,” said Punita Thurman, the education program director for Detroit’s Skillman Foundation who has worked with KIPP and other charter networks as they’ve explored expanding to Detroit. When KIPP or Achievement First, another charter operator, comes to a city, for example, they can share their expertise and resources, she said.

When Michigan in 2011 raised its longstanding cap on the number of charter schools that were allowed to open in the state, one of the arguments for allowing more charters was that restrictions had kept away high-quality national networks that want to be able to share administrative expenses among multiple schools.

But five years later, nearly all of Detroit’s charter schools are still small local operations that don’t have the resources of the big national networks.

“It’s not from lack of effort, because we have been actively recruiting those folks to come in and open schools,” said Tim Wood, who heads the charter school office at Grand Valley State University, one of Detroit’s largest charter school authorizers.

KIPP is continuing to explore Detroit and could open a school here as early as 2018, said spokesman Steve Mancini, but the network first must ensure that its schools would succeed.

Obstacles include the state’s $7,500 per-pupil funding rate, which is lower than many other states, and the fact that Michigan does not provide money to cover construction expenses for charter schools. Another issue is the oversupply of classrooms, which means that even schools with good reputations can have trouble recruiting enough students to pay their bills.

“We want to make sure that there are elements in place to really grow and thrive over the long term,” Mancini said.

* * *

Some of those elements could be on the way, thanks to a recent package of legislation.

State officials last month approved a $617 million rescue package for the Detroit Public Schools, mostly to pay off debts that accumulated during more than a decade of state control. The effort, which created a new debt-free district, will put more money into public school classrooms. But many reforms sought by local advocates were left out of the final legislation.

Notably, advocates wanted a mayoral-appointed Detroit Education Commission, which would have enabled local leaders to raise money for citywide education reforms and given the city’s mayor power over where new schools could open — a move that supporters believed would lead to higher standards for schools.

Photo from flickr/snre
Photo from flickr/snre

But the commission was strongly opposed by some charter school supporters who feared it would protect the district at the expense of charters. Ultimately, the final legislation demoted it to a powerless advisory board.

The process was yet another divisive episode in the political climate around schools in Michigan — one that local advocates say has repelled potential supporters.

“People don’t like to go in and invest in an environment where there’s a lot of angst and controversy,” said Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, a charter school membership organization.

Still, national players are watching to see whether some of the other reforms in the package — like the city’s first empowered school board in years, a new accountability system that will force the closure of dozens of failing schools, and new accreditation standards for the colleges and universities that authorize charter schools — will lead to improvements.

“We will continue to monitor how recent policy shifts will impact authorizer and school quality in Detroit and across the state,” said Marc Sternberg, who heads the K-12 education program for the Walton Foundation, in a statement. “We know that strong authorizing is key to creating high-quality charter schools, which should only have the privilege of serving students if they are doing it well.”

Sternberg said Walton focuses its investments “in cities where conditions support system-wide improvement and where our grantees – school leaders and advocates – can have the greatest, most sustained impact.”

Some in Detroit would be happy to see Walton stay away.

”We’re better off without them,” said Detroit Board of Education President Herman Davis. “Those foundations are actually a part of the network that’s trying to bring down public education.”

Wayne State University education professor Thomas Pedroni says foundations such as Walton that have heavily backed charter schools and the idea that parents are consumers who should use test scores to choose schools have caused many of the problems facing urban education.

“It would be different if what foundations were doing was taking huge quantities of funding and listening to education research and community activists and putting [money] where research says it would make a difference,” Pedroni said. “But that’s not what’s happening and that’s not what’s happened.”

But others argue that at a time of anemic federal and state funding, Detroit needs all the help it can get.

“I don’t know of a city in the country that is getting at-scale breakthrough student achievement gains that doesn’t have a substantial investment from national players,” said Lou Glazer of Michigan Future Inc., a local think tank that funds and supports new schools, mostly charter schools. In Detroit, he said, “By and large they’re missing in action.”

“The consequence for children,” he said, “is that … you end up with lower-quality schools.”

Sarah Reckhow, a Michigan State University political science professor whose book, “Follow the Money,” documents ways that foundation dollars have changed public school politics, notes that many of the changes that have pitted foundations against public school advocates elsewhere in the country have have already happened in Detroit.

While private dollars have generated controversy around the country because it often flows to charter schools, siphoning resources away from districts, Detroit is already the second largest charter school city in the country.

“The cat is out of the bag in terms of Detroit not having what you would consider a traditional public school system anymore,” Reckhow said. “It’s not philanthropy changing that environment … It’s now a question of, if you’re going to have these policies in place, it seems to me that Detroit needs some resources to have better schools given the highly competitive environment that’s not going away.”

* * *

If Detroit wants help from out of state, advocates say the city’s leaders need to come together around a clear, unified strategy for improving the city’s schools.

“The cities that are getting investment — Indianapolis and Oakland, Baton Rouge, Washington DC, New Orleans — they’re all different, but what’s clear is there are intentional efforts in those cities to strategically invest in the growth of high-performing schools and have a high quality bar for both charter and district schools,” said Gray from Education Cities.

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, which brought together educators, business leaders, community groups and foundations to plot a strategy for schools, is trying to put forward a plan. It made a series of recommendations last year for reforming Detroit schools including the Detroit Education Commission.

The Coalition lost its fight for the commission, but Nate Walker, a policy analyst for the Michigan chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said the group will keep pushing for change.

“In the past year or so, we saw a vast group of stakeholders come together with a common vision for Detroit,” Walker said. “It’s disappointing that a key piece of that plan couldn’t move forward but I’m optimistic that there will be beginnings of a vision … to stabilize the landscape.”

Walker said his union is no fan of the role national foundations have played in public education but said he hopes that if the coalition can stay together and develop a cohesive plan for improving Detroit schools, national education organizations will step up to support local efforts.

“Blindingly advocating for an infusion of private dollars without a meaningful vision around improving education in Detroit is probably not good for Detroit,” Walker said.

But if the private dollars continue to stay away, Varner of Excellent Schools says, Detroiters should think about why.

“There are lots of folks who wouldn’t want national money, I suppose,” Varner said. “But the bottom line is there’s a reason they don’t show up. And the reason has everything to do with the high level of dysfunction in Michigan and Detroit.”

finish line

A $1.6 billion tax increase for Colorado education just got a lot closer to the ballot

Joi Lin, a Boulder Valley Education Association employee, checks notary pages on petitions for Great Schools, Thriving communities. (Erica Meltzer/Chalkbeat)

Supporters of more funding for Colorado schools turned in more than 170,000 signatures Wednesday to place a $1.6 billion tax measure on the November ballot.

If approved, the measure would increase the corporate tax rate and the income tax rate on individuals earning $150,000 or more, with the additional revenue going to increase base per-student funding, to pay for full-day kindergarten, and to put more money toward students with special needs, such as those learning English, those with disabilities, and those who are gifted and talented.

Organizers said volunteers collected more than 111,000 signatures, with paid canvassers collecting the rest to build up a substantial cushion and make approval more certain.  The measure needs 98,492 valid signatures to get in front of voters. Inevitably, some signatures are rejected for a variety of reasons. The day before the Wednesday deadline, volunteers were going over petition packets a third time to check for mistakes before turning them in.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office still needs to verify the signatures. Under tougher requirements approved in 2016, those signatures need to represent 2 percent of the registered voters in each of the state’s 35 senate districts – and to pass, the measure will need support from 55 percent of voters.

Getting that support will be no easy task, considering that the last attempt to raise taxes for schools, Amendment 66 in 2013, was defeated 2 to 1. Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights requires all tax increases to be approved by voters, and they’ve been loathe to approve statewide taxes for any cause, even as local school districts have been more successful.

Cathy Kipp, a school board member from the Fort Collins-based Poudre district, personally collected more than 4,000 signatures around the state, and she said she was pleased to see support from ordinary people even in many conservative communities. That decisions about how to spend the money would be made locally is key to winning over voters, she said.

“The money will be spent however the local school district wants to spend it,” she said. “I knew teachers last time who didn’t want to vote for (Amendment 66) because it was so proscriptive.”

Kipp said Poudre likely would use the money to improve mental health services for students and raise teacher salaries.

Supporters believe the more challenging petition process, which required them to fan out across the state, will ultimately be to their advantage in the campaign to come.

“We have education supporters having conversations around the state about what additional revenue could mean for them,” said Susan Meek, a spokeswoman for Great Education Colorado, a key organization backing the tax increase. “The money will be spent locally. Every school district can go out and say what it would mean for them. Perhaps it is vocational-technical education. Perhaps it’s having school five days a week. Perhaps it is having a counselor in every school.”

And to make the case that a statewide tax on businesses and those with higher incomes is a better way to raise money than local taxes, supporters have broken down how much money each district would get and how large a property tax increase it would take to raise that money locally. Often, it’s a very big number.

Colorado ranks 28th among the states in per-student funding, according to the most recent report from the National Education Association, which includes local, state, and federal funding in its comparison. However, Colorado spends much less than other states of comparable wealth and generally gets poor marks for equity. School districts vary enormously in how much they spend on each student, and half the districts in the state are operating on four-day weeks because they can’t afford to be open more than that.

Since the Great Recession, state lawmakers have withheld roughly $7.5 billion that would have gone to K-12 education under a constitutionally mandated formula. The 2018-19 state budget includes a 6.95 percent increase for education, roughly $475 more per student, but supporters of more money for schools say that the increase doesn’t begin to address years of underfunding.

“It’s hard for people to understand how you can have one of the fastest growing economies in the nation and can’t fund schools at the level you did before the Great Recession,” said Tracie Rainey, executive director of the Colorado School Finance Project, another backer of the initiative.

The only way to really address the issue is a major source of new revenue, they say. And that’s what Initiative 93 would provide.

The tax measure calls for:

  • Raising the corporate income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 6 percent.
  • Raising the income tax rate from a flat 4.63 percent to between 5 percent and 8.25 percent for people earning more than $150,000. The highest tax rate would be paid by people earning $500,000 or more.
  • Setting the residential property assessment rate at 7 percent for schools. That’s lower than it is now but higher than it is predicted to be in 2019 because current law has the unintended effect of gradually reducing the residential assessment rate.
  • Setting the non-residential property assessment rate at 24 percent, less than the current 29 percent.

According to a fiscal analysis by the state, the average taxpayer earning more than $150,000 would pay an additional $519 a year, while those earning less would be unaffected. The average corporate taxpayer would pay an additional $11,085 a year. The change in property taxes would vary considerably around the state, but based on the average statewide school levy, many property owners would pay $28 more on each $100,000 of market value in 2019 than they otherwise would. Commercial property owners will see a decrease.

Total property tax revenue collected by school districts is expected to go down statewide, but the measure would partly stabilize property assessments, whose volatility has complicated school finance in Colorado.

A 1982 provision called the Gallagher Amendment sets a formula for the share of property taxes paid by residential and commercial owners, with the effect that skyrocketing values along the Front Range have ratcheted down residential assessment rates across the state. But in poorer rural communities without the tax base of cities like Denver or Boulder, that’s had devastating consequences for school districts, fire districts, and other small taxing entities, even as business owners, ranchers, and farmers have faced a heavier burden.

The state has had to make up much of the difference, and lawmakers are meeting during the off-season to try to come up with a fix. Any change would require voter approval – and could be a tough sell in part because it would be hard to explain.

Initiative 93 only deals with the assessment rate for schools in order to comply with Colorado’s single-subject rule for ballot measures, but it does represent a partial Gallagher fix. This provision was included for several reasons. One, it means that new revenue will actually increase school funding, rather than simply backfilling ever declining local taxes, and two, it provides some tax relief to ranchers and farmers, a selling point in rural communities that have been more reluctant to approve tax increases. And there’s a third argument, that stabilizing property tax revenue will free up more money in the state budget for other needs beyond education.

There are other things that make this effort different from past attempts, supporters say. Amendment 66 was widely perceived as a top-down effort that came from Denver. It raised taxes on everyone, and it made changes to the school finance formula that created winners and losers among districts, making it hard for many school board members and superintendents to support it.

Supporters of Initiative 93 describe it as being built from the ground up over a two-year process that included lots of input from school districts across the state, as well as from advocacy organizations like the NAACP and Padres y Jóvenes Unidos. It raises taxes only on businesses and higher-income earners, who represent less than 8 percent of individual income tax returns, and while it encourages the legislature to adopt a new school finance formula, it ensures that every district will see an increase.

Skeptics see just another attempt to throw money at the problem.

“Things are different this time, and it’s that they’re asking for more money,” said Luke Ragland of the conservative education reform group Ready Colorado.

A better approach, Ragland said, would be to tie increased funding to policies that could be expected to improve educational outcomes. There’s no guarantee that this money will make it into the classroom or into teachers’ paychecks, he said.

“There are places in terms of human capital, in terms of attracting talent and keeping it in the classroom, where more money would make a difference, but not just pouring more money into the current system,” he said.

Supporters of the measure will be campaigning in a complicated political environment, possibly sharing the ballot with a major tax increase for transportation, as well as a governor’s race and legislative contests that will determine control of the state Senate, where Republicans currently hold a one-seat majority.

Candidates up and down the ballot likely will be asked to take a position on the ballot measure, layering partisan politics over a measure that supporters hope will have broad appeal.

“You start this analysis with the assumption that it’s an uphill battle because we don’t really pass statewide tax increases, while schools pass lots of local taxes and bond measures,” said political consultant and pollster Floyd Ciruli. “The difference is trust. At the statewide level, people don’t trust that the money will go to benefit their local schools.”

Ciruli sees advantages, though, to asking voters in a mid-term election. Turnout will be higher than in an off-year, when older, more conservative voters tend to dominate, and even-year voters are more likely to have Democratic tendencies and be more open to taxes.

The contentious Democratic primary, which focused on education, also “primed” voters to see low funding as a key problem for schools, he said.

“The environment is pro-education,” Ciruli said. That places the tax measure “in the ballpark, but it’s still a challenge to do a statewide tax increase.”

Lisa Weil, executive director of Great Education Colorado, said the organizations working on the measure decided not to worry too much about “conventional wisdom” and move forward until they saw a compelling reason not to put something on the ballot.

“We’re not naive about the fact that we’re in a political environment, but we’re also creating that political environment,” she said. “Our entire state has a hunger to do right by kids.”

IPS referendum

To bring down potential tax hikes, chamber proposes slashing Indianapolis Public Schools budget

PHOTO: Alan Petersime
Students walk through the halls at the Career Technology Center at Arsenal Technical High School.

In a political showdown, one of the most vocal supporters of Indianapolis Public Schools is pressuring the district’s administration to make aggressive budget cuts and significantly reduce its request for more taxpayer money.

The Indy Chamber unveiled a plan Wednesday proposing nearly $500 million in sweeping cuts to Indianapolis Public Schools over eight years. And the chamber drew a line for its support of requesting more money from taxpayers: Chamber officials say they believe the district should only ask for $152 million in additional funding through tax increases, a significant reduction from what started as a nearly $1 billion request.

The district is set to decide next week how much it will seek from taxpayers in November.

Philanthropist and influential business leader Al Hubbard, who played a significant role in the analysis, gave an unvarnished pitch for the district to embrace the chamber’s recommendation during a press conference.

“Our hope is that they are going to embrace this proposal,” Hubbard said. “If they propose a referendum that’s higher than this, we will have to oppose them.”

But the district pushed back. In a statement, Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said the district will continue to work with the chamber as officials work toward a referendum amount. But he raised concerns about the cost-cutting measures recommended, particularly what he described as closing a “devastating” number of schools.

“IPS is committed to further action to reduce unnecessary expenditures,” Ferebee said. “We believe, however, that a responsible referendum request cannot be anchored solely in revenue from cost savings that to this point are on paper only.”

The report came on the heels of months of work between the district and the chamber after the school board agreed to delay a plan to ask voters for more money in May. In exchange for the delay, the chamber committed to analyze Indianapolis Public Schools’ finances, help draft a new request — and, importantly, lend its political support to a tax increase.

The proposal now puts school officials are in a bind: If they adopt the chamber’s plan, or something similar, they will need to dramatically overhaul district spending in the coming years. Alternatively, if they reject the austerity measures, they could lose the chamber’s support and struggle to persuade voters that more funding is essential.

The largest savings in the chamber’s plan, expected to save $477 million over eight years, would come from:

  • Reducing the number of teachers through attrition ($126 million).
  • Eliminating busing for high school students and relying on public transit ($121 million).
  • Reducing unused space more than likely by closing schools ($100 million).
  • Cutting the central office staff by 50 percent ($33 million).
  • Reducing the number of custodians ($19 million).

Another $62 million would come from “operating efficiencies,” a bucket that includes wide-ranging suggestions such as cutting classroom assistants, contracting out nursing, expanding health savings accounts for employees, and switching to an internet phone system.

Ahmed Young, the chief of staff for the district, said Indianapolis Public Schools has significantly cut spending on its central office and sold underused properties in recent years. He said the district would continue to work with the chamber to come to an agreement in the coming days.

“There are elements that we disagree on obviously, and we are going to continue to lift up our hood and make sure our engine is running properly,” he said.

The plan also includes two potentially controversial real estate deals. It calls for leasing the Broad Ripple High School building to Purdue Polytechnic High School and Indianapolis Classical Schools, which runs Herron High School. That proposal has ignited controversy in recent weeks, as local political leaders have put increasing pressure on the district to accept an offer for the building, while Indianapolis Public Schools officials have said they plan to have an open process to gauge interest. The chamber is also calling for the district to look into selling its central office building, which officials are already considering.

The chamber contends that the cuts it recommends could balance the district’s budget — which is projected to have a deficit of about $45 million next school year. But the chamber is also proposing $243 million in extra spending on teacher and principal pay to reduce turnover and make Indianapolis Public Schools more competitive with nearby districts.

Indianapolis Public Schools spends the most per student of any comparable district, according to chamber data from 2016-17. But its teacher pay is relatively low compared to other districts, especially for mid- and late-career teachers. In part, that’s because the district only spends about 47 percent of its budget in classrooms, according to the chamber.

Under the chamber’s plan, teacher pay would go up by 16 percent and principal pay would rise to $150,000 per year by 2020-21. After that, all IPS employees would receive 2 percent raises each year.

To fund those raises, the chamber is proposing increasing local funding by $100 million for operating expenses, such as teacher pay, over eight years by asking voters to approve a tax increase. The plan also includes a second tax measure to raise $52 million for building improvements, primarily focused on safety, that was announced by the district in June.

That’s a significant decrease from the district’s original proposal for referendums. Indianapolis Public Schools officials announced last year that they would seek nearly $1 billion more over eight years from local taxpayers in May. After that plan failed to gain support from community leaders, the district first reduced its request and then delayed the vote until November.

The chamber acknowledged that the cuts it is recommending would be painful.

“What we are asking them to do is tough. Closing schools is very difficult. Reducing the number of employees is very difficult,” said Hubbard. “At the same time, we think it’s unfair to the taxpayer to pay for empty seats or to pay for unnecessary staff.”

School board president Michael O’Connor said the district has had a longstanding partnership with the Indy Chamber, and he expects them to come to an agreement in the coming days.

“If we keep that perspective, that we’ve been partners on a lot of very difficult things, in the forefront, and we keep talking between now and Tuesday afternoon at 5:45 p.m., I think we will probably find some common ground,” he said.

The chamber’s report echoes a similar finding in 2014, when the district was projected to run a budget deficit. The chamber made similar recommendations, including selling the district’s headquarters and relying more on public transportation. The administration eventually implemented some of those suggestions, but concerns about the deficit dissipated when it was revealed to be an accounting error.

The current Indianapolis Public Schools administration is often lauded by the business community, and the chamber, for steps it has taken to transform the district in recent years, including the push for more school choices and the closure of some underused high schools. Indy Chamber CEO Michael Huber echoed that support Wednesday, describing Ferebee as “one of the best superintendents in the country.”

“We very much believe in Dr. Ferebee’s abilities to implement these solutions,” Huber said. “We wouldn’t be wasting our time throwing out hypotheticals or theoretical solutions.”

The plan was crafted by consultants from Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting and Policy Analytics, LLC, who had access to reams of information and prior reports from Indianapolis Public Schools.

This story has been updated.