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Indianapolis Public Schools will publicly post federal relief-fund spending

Four masked students sit at desks and look into laptops at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, Ind. on Friday, April 9, 2021.
Indianapolis Public Schools will post online how it is spending federal coronavirus relief funds.
Aaricka Washington / Chalkbeat

So that the public can see how Indianapolis Public Schools is using federal coronavirus relief funds, district officials plan to post online a tracker detailing how they are spending $213.5 million federal funds.

“We know folks are paying close attention to how schools are leveraging these dollars,” Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said on Tuesday. “We want to make sure that we are being as transparent as possible.”

The tracker will categorize spending within each of the three federal aid packages. It will show how much the district has spent in categories like instructional support and personal protective equipment. The tracker, which will include charts, will not break down expenditures by school.

The district plans to update the data quarterly. Viewers will be able to see the tracker on the district website later this week.

IPS has only recently begun to spend its federal aid.

“We’re not three or four years down the road where we know what we’ve spent. We’re at the very beginning,” said Weston Young, the district’s chief financial officer. “So our decision-making process with community feedback, that’s critical.”

The federal government allocated IPS $17 million in the first round of coronavirus aid, $60.5 million in the second round last fall, and $136 million this spring for schools under the IPS’s direct management.

IPS’ innovation schools, which operate independently from the district, together will receive $78.1 million.

The district created the tracker after hearing from the public at town halls last week that people wanted to know more about what the district was purchasing with federal aid.

About 90 community members attended the in-person and virtual town halls June 14-17. They offered suggestions on how the district should spend the federal largesse.

Participants suggested, for example, that IPS provide more tutoring, tech support, and therapy. District officials said people also mentioned investing more in racial equity support, teacher training, language support for families, school libraries, and extended learning times.

Community members may offer ideas and feedback on how to use federal relief funds via an online form through June 30. Johnson said that the district will incorporate community ideas that they were already exploring into a strategic plan and look for ways to implement suggestions.

The district has to spend the dollars from each aid package by federal deadlines. It must spend the grant from the first relief package by 2022.

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