Who's giving money to IPS school board candidates?

PHOTO: Hayleigh Colombo

The big money so far in the Indianapolis Public School Board race is going to challengers, who share common ideas for changing the district, over the incumbents.

Money flowing into the race is coming both from local activists and high-profile national figures, such as Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Today was the deadline to file fundraising reports to the Marion County Election Board. Final reports will be filed after the Nov. 4 election.

The top fundraisers so far are former State Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan with more than $50,000, ex-school board member Kelly Bentley with more than $40,000,  charter school dean LaNier Echols with more than $30,000 and Light of the World Christian Church Pastor David Hampton, who has brought in more than $20,000. All four favor increased autonomy for building principals, revamping teacher pay and partnering with charter schools.

Sullivan and Hampton are challenging school board president Annie Roof, who raised $4,200. Bentley is running against board member Samantha Adair-White, who has $1,100. Echols will go up against board member Michael Brown, who has about $420.

Overall, the seven challengers raised nearly $150,000. The incumbents raised about $6,000 between the three of them.

Campaign finance has become a central issue in the IPS school board race ever since an expensive 2012 election helped elect three new board members. Some candidates, like Roof, have criticized the high-dollar gifts and vowed not to accept any money from outside of Indiana.

Meet the candidates: Attend Chalkbeat’s free Oct. 23 event with WFYI at the Central Library

The candidates’ campaign coffers are being filled by Indianapolis philanthropists, businesspeople and national education advocates, according to their financial filings.

There’s also money being spent on the race by advocacy organizations like Stand for Children, which doesn’t have to report to the county. Stand for Children is running its own campaigns backing Sullivan, Bentley and Echols by paying for advertisements on their behalf.

Here is what the candidates have raised so far, and who’s supporting them:

At-Large District: Sullivan and Hampton lead the way in fundraising

Sullivan, a veteran campaigner, won endorsements from groups like Stand for Children and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. She has earned $51,447 so far in contributions.

Notable contributions to her campaign include: $8,400 from Indy Chamber’s political action committee, $5,000 from Indianapolis philanthropist Al Hubbard, $2,000 from Christel House charter school founder Christel DeHaan, $500 from former Mayor Bart Peterson and $1,000 each from LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and his wife Michelle Yee. She’s also received in-kind donations from the Indy Chamber to help with consulting.

Hampton also has raised a significant amount: $22,105, with $8,000 coming from Hubbard and DeHaan, who gave him $5,000 and $3,000, respectively. Other notable contributions include $5,000 from Indianapolis attorney Lacy Johnson, $200 from State Rep. Greg Porter’s political action committee and $100 from former mayoral candidate Melina Kennedy.

Roof has raised about $4,200 so far. Her biggest contribution $2,200 from Barbara Barrick. She also received $589 from The Pfahler Group, where she works as a marketing coordinator.

Butler University economics instructor Josh Owens has raised $2,208, with all of his donations coming in at $250 or less and most coming from Indianapolis and his hometown of Shelbyville.

Pastor Ramon Batts, an IPS athletic coach, has raised $525, with most coming from Baptist Ministers Foresight Alliance.

District 3: Kelly Bentley’s contributions dwarf incumbent

Bentley, who has been endorsed by both the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and Stand for Children, reported she’s raised $41,723 so far, including nearly $10,000 in in-kind donations, dwarfing Samantha Adair-White’s $1,100. James Turner had not submitted his campaign finance filing by the Marion County Election Board’s 12 p.m. Friday deadline, according to a list of filings on its website.

Bentley’s contributions come from Indianapolis residents and education reform advocates across the country. Her biggest check came from Hubbard in the amount of $5,000. New York-based Stephen Suess gave her $2,500. (Suess is Bentley’s brother and the gift was website services, not cash.)

Her other notable contributions include: $1,500 from Stacy Schusterman, $1,000 each from LinkedIn’s Hoffman and wife Yee and $500 from Facebook’s Sandberg. Bentley has also received a $7,000 in-kind consulting donation from the Indy Chamber’s PAC and $4,000 from the Indianapolis metals warehouse Steel House.

Adair-White has raised $1,100 for her campaign, with more than half coming from her husband Jeffrey C. White.

District 5: Echols out-raises Brown by more than $30K

Can the longest serving school board member keep his seat on the board despite raising pennies compared to his challenger, whose contributions come from zip codes spanning from New York to California?

Michael Brown, who has served the Northwest side of the district since 1998, raised $310 for his campaign from July to October, with another $112 in cash that he started out with. Brown told Chalkbeat last month that he was confident in his grassroots support, but takes any challenger seriously.

LaNier Echols has friends with deep pockets.

Echols, a dean at Carpe Diem Meridian charter school who taught at IPS through Teach for America, has raked in more than $32,000 from April to Oct. 10. Intel Corp. founder and Teach for America board member Arthur Rock, who gave her $5,000, is her biggest contributor.

Notable contributions to her campaign include: $1,000 each from LinkedIn founder Hoffman and his wife Yee, $500 from Facebook’s Sandberg and $500 from Teach for America board member Suzanne Lehmann. (Disclosure: Lehmann is the chair of Chalkbeat’s board.)

She also received $7,000 in in-kind contributions from the Indy Chamber’s PAC for consulting, and another $1,200 in in-kind consulting from Washington D.C.-based Leadership for Educational Equity.

The election is Nov. 4. To read about the candidates’ positions on issues facing IPS, visit our interactive election tracker at

Note: This post has been updated to reflect that a New York-based contributor to Bentley’s campaign is her brother.)

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.