School & District Management

Indianapolis Mayor, Supporter of Charters, Loses Race

By Michele McNeil — November 08, 2007 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson—a major supporter of charter schools and the only mayor in the country who can authorize them—will be handing over the reins of the city and its 16 charter schools to a Republican political neophyte after suffering a stunning election-night defeat last week.

While school districts often get new superintendents or school board members, charter school advocates say this transition in mayors will be more significant, because the future of the nontraditional, largely autonomous, publicly funded schools that serve more than 4,000 Indianapolis students is at stake.

Nationally, charter school advocates and opponents are eager to see how Mayor-elect Greg Ballard handles the transition and approaches the job’s educational responsibilities—something that’s been an issue in other states that have considered allowing elected politicians to authorize charter schools.

The closest another state has come to allowing a mayor to authorize such schools is in Wisconsin, where the Milwaukee City Council can charter a school. Typically, states assign such power to a local or state board of education or a university.

“It’s going to put to the test one of the concerns that some folks have,” said Todd Ziebarth, a policy analyst for the Washington- based National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “If you allow mayors to be authorizers, what’s going to happen when someone else comes in?”

Mr. Ballard, who has told Indianapolis media outlets that he supports charter schools, will have some immediate decisions to make when he takes office in January. At least three of the 16 mayor-sponsored charter schools will be up for reauthorization in 2008, and that decision will be handled by Mr. Ballard’s administration.

Moreover, the mayor is allowed, by the charter school law passed in 2001, to create five new charter schools a year, so Mr. Ballard would have to decide if any new ones will open under his watch.

Mayor Peterson, a Democrat who was first elected in 1999 and was seeking his third term, is a major proponent of charter schools and developed a rigorous review and quality-monitoring process that far exceeded requirements in state law. He required quarterly financial reporting, site visits, and accountability plans that must be met, among other provisions.

National Recognition

“The model is there,” said Kevin Teasley, the president of the Indianapolis- based Greater Educational Opportunities Foundation, which operates two charter schools sponsored by the mayor in Indianapolis. “The question is, will Ballard follow it? The meaning of quality can have a very different meaning to someone else.”

Mr. Ballard is a self-employed management consultant who retired as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marines in 2001. His campaign did not return a call seeking comment late last week.

David E. Harris, who was Mayor Peterson’s first charter schools director, said the new administration will face the immediate challenges of getting to know the 16 charter school operators and the schools’ strengths and weaknesses.

Mr. Harris said the success of Indianapolis’ charter schools initiative, and the mayor’s role as authorizer, will continue to hinge on how well the mayor knows the community, his ability to ensure the chartering process and accountability provisions are transparent, and a demand for high academic standards.

“I think the systems and the processes and the standards that Mayor Peterson has established are so good, so clear, and so clearly designed to extend beyond his tenure,” said Mr. Harris, who is now the president and chief executive officer of the Indianapolis- based Mind Trust, which seeks to promote educational entrepreneurship in the city. “Indianapolis charter schools will be fine, and will continue to thrive. And that’s the mark of any good initiative.”

Mayor Peterson’s loss—considered by Indiana political and media experts to be the biggest upset in recent Hoosier political history—primarily had to do with rising crime and property taxes.

Nationally, Mayor Peterson was considered a trailblazer, gaining the authority to authorize charter schools in 2001 and methodically developing the system for reviewing, approving, and holding them accountable. The program was honored in 2006 with the prestigious Innovations in American Government award from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

“The city is turning into a hub for educational innovation,” said Andrew J. Rotherham, a co-director of the Washington think tank Education Sector, which supports charter schools. “Hopefully, that won’t fall by the wayside.”

A version of this article appeared in the November 14, 2007 edition of Education Week as Indianapolis Mayor, Supporter of Charters, Loses Race

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
Future of the First Amendment:Exploring Trends in High School Students’ Views of Free Speech
Learn how educators are navigating student free speech issues and addressing controversial topics like gender and race in the classroom.
Content provided by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Schools Prefer Cheaper Ventilation Options to Curb COVID: Why They Should Consider Upgrading
Most schools are opening windows and hosting class outdoors rather than investing in costlier, more-effective measures.
2 min read
Students from PS 11 Elementary School participate in art projects and interactive activities, during an after-school outdoor program held in the High Line park in New York, NY, October 21, 2020.
Students from PS 11 Elementary School participate in art projects and interactive activities during an after-school outdoor program in New York City in 2020. Many schools are opting for outdoor classes and other-low cost measures to maintain healthy air quality during the pandemic.
Anthony Behar/Sipa via AP Images
School & District Management Hour by Busy Hour: What a Principal's Day Actually Looks Like
From the time they wake up until they set the alarm at night, school leaders juggle the routine, the unexpected, and the downright bizarre.
Left, Principal Michael C. Brown talks on a radio at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., on May 17, 2022. Right, Boone Elementary School principal Manuela Haberer directs students and parents in the pick-up line at the conclusion of the school day on May 19, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas.
Left, Principal Michael C. Brown talks on a radio at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., on May 17, 2022. Right, Boone Elementary School principal Manuela Haberer directs students and parents in the pick-up line at the conclusion of the school day on May 19, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas.
From left, Steve Ruark and Lisa Krantz for Education Week
School & District Management Photos What School Leadership Looks Like: A Day in the Life of a Principal
A look at a typical day for one elementary school principal in Texas and a high school principal in Maryland.
1 min read
Principal Michael C. Brown, from left, talks to seniors Brady D’Anthony, 18, and Sydney Dryden, 17, at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., Tuesday, May 17, 2022.
Principal Michael C. Brown, from left, talks to seniors Brady D’Anthony, 18, and Sydney Dryden, 17, at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., Tuesday, May 17, 2022.
Steve Ruark for Education Week
School & District Management Schools Can Access Tons of Money for Electric Buses. Will They Use It?
Electric buses are growing more appealing as fuel prices rise, but some districts remain wary of the cost and logistics.
5 min read
Stockton Unified School District's new electric bus fleet reduces over 120,000 pounds of carbon emissions and leverages The Mobility House's smart charging and energy management system.
The new electric bus fleet at California's Stockton Unified School District is projected to reduce the district's carbon emissions.
Business Wire via AP