Indianapolis Public Schools is facing a potential turning point, as the 2016 election has become a battle for control of the board and the future direction of the district.
With four of the seven seats up for election, the balance of power is on the line. But even if critics of the current administration fail to win a majority, this race is a test of whether they can mount a credible challenge to the pro-reform juggernaut that has won control in recent elections.
In one camp, there is a group of candidates who have been more supportive of Superintendent Lewis Ferebee and increasing partnerships with charter schools. It includes the three incumbents up for election — Sam Odle, Michael O’Connor and Diane Arnold — and newcomer Venita Moore.
All four candidates have raised tens of thousands of dollars, and they have gotten significant support from groups including the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, the political advocacy group for Indianapolis real estate agents and Stand for Children, a pro-reform parent organizing and political advocacy group that spends big money on the school board races.
On the other side are four outsiders who have been critical of Ferebee’s leadership and the district’s new direction. They have far less money — only Jim Grim had raised more than $1,000 by last month — and no support from the pro-reform groups that are aiming to reshape the district, like Stand and the Chamber.
It’s a similar dynamic to the races in 2012 and 2014, when pro-reform candidates swept to easy victories with the help of unprecedented cash.
But this time, critics of the current administration are aiming to shake up the race and unseat incumbents. Two groups, Concerned Clergy and OurIPS, have led a coordinated effort to elect a slate of four candidates to the board, including Grim, Ramon Batts, Christine Prince and Larry Vaughn.
Those groups have held a series of campaign forums in partnership with the Indianapolis NAACP. They have launched a website, planted lawn signs across the city and even released a commercial. But they have been wildly outspent by the incumbents and their supporters. Tomorrow will put to the test whether their campaign efforts will be enough to persuade voters.
Two other candidates are not part of either camp: Elizabeth Gore, a former IPS board president, and Nanci Lacy, an IPS parent and education advocate .
Tune in to our live blog on Election Day for highlights from the field and updates on the race as the results trickle in.
Chalkbeat has been covering the IPS board race since July, so we have plenty of stories to catch up on.
- Where all 10 Indianapolis Public Schools board candidates stand on the issues
- Out-of-state money seems to be skipping the IPS board race
- IPS board members reject pointed critiques from challengers seeking to unseat them
- The story behind the mysterious group aiming to shake up the IPS school board race
- Top 4 issues the next Indianapolis Public Schools Board will decide
- Indianapolis Public School Board’s push for change faces a test on Election Day
- The race is on: Sam Odle has two strong challengers for his IPS board seat
- Inflammatory protester-turned-candidate challenges veteran member for seat on IPS board
- Three candidates seek to replace Cosby, the most vocal skeptic on the IPS board
- An east side school board seat pits a believer against a skeptic of changes in IPS