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Guide to the 2016 IPS board race: A battle for the direction of the district

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.

READ: Find more on this year’s races for superintendent, governor and IPS school board.

READ: Find more on this year’s races for superintendent, governor and IPS school board.

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.


Candidate profiles: