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The Corporate Raid on Public Schools in Indianapolis: School Board Election Corrupted by Dark Money

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At the recent school board meeting of Indianapolis Public Schools, Professor Jim Scheurich of Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis got up to speak. The story he tells is similar to what happened in Denver, where Stand for Children, DFER, and other conduits for anonymous donors bought every seat on the elected school board, swamping the opposition with cash they could not match.

This was his testimony:

“My name is Dr. Jim Scheurich.

“I have been a professor of education for 25 years, first at the University of Texas at Austin and then at Texas A&M University and now at IUPUI.

“Throughout those 25 years, I have studied school success in urban districts, even winning a couple of major national awards as a scholar.

“Based on having studied some of the best urban districts in the country, I would have to say that the IPS school board and administration are among the lowest quality I have seen.

“This conclusion is particularly evident in the many negative issues that have arisen in the school closing processes and decisions.

“What I want to address about these negative issues is how we came to have this particular school board that follows an agenda that consistently disregards what the community wants, like closing legacy high schools.

“Up until 2010, an ordinary citizen of Indianapolis could win a school board seat for $3-5,000.
Starting in 2012, Stand for Children and the Mind Trust provided over $50,000 each for their candidates. Over the last 3 elections, Stand for Children and the Mind Trust have provided around $1.5 million to elect all but one school board member, Elizabeth Gore.

“This means that six of the seven board members became board members through the purchase of our local democracy. This means they owe their allegiance to the agenda of Stand for Children and the Mind Trust and NOT to the Indianapolis community.

“It seems to me that the big money election of these six board members is certainly anti-community and anti-democracy.

“But this is not the end of this scary story.

“The $1.5 million spent on the last three elections flowed through Stand for Children that used a tax designation, 501c4, to hide the source of that money and the ways they spend it.

“Why would Stand for Children and the Mind Trust try to hide the sources and spending of all of this money if they are as community oriented as they say they are?

“What they don’t want you to know is that much of this big money is coming from wealthy individuals and organizations from all around the country.

“Because then you might ask why do wealthy folks who may never set foot in Indianapolis want to buy our school board?

“You also might ask why the same wealthy folks from around the country are doing exactly the same agenda in 35 other urban centers.

“Why are wealthy folks from around the country purchasing so many urban school boards? Why are these 35 purchased school boards following the same agenda, like closing legacy high schools and supporting the opening of charter high schools?

“We in Indianapolis do not want to follow some national agenda created by wealthy individuals and organizations from outside Indianapolis.

“Instead we want to follow an agenda that is Indianapolis centered and focuses on the voices and needs of ordinary Indianapolis people of all races and incomes.

“And, thus, what we don’t need is any closing of our legacy high schools.”

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