Indiana Community Groups, Businesses Promote Education Reform

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Companies ranging from law and accounting firms to construction and engineering corporations have decided it's time to make education their business.

Saying education in Indianapolis is in a state of emergency, the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce said Monday it has formed a coalition with 40 businesses and community groups to raise awareness and promote education reform in an effort to improve Indianapolis Public Schools.

The coalition, called IndyEducation911, was announced on the same day the State Board of Education voted to turn over control of the four poorest-performing IPS schools to private companies.

The coalition cited the reverberations a poor education system can have on a city -- outside the classroom.

Higher crime rates. Smaller qualified hiring pools. Higher unemployment rates. Less disposable income.

"Education is just foundational to economic development," said Steve Walker, owner of Walker Information, which is a member of the coalition. "I really believe the city that gets this right and the state that gets this right will be the best-positioned place for companies to want to locate and expand."

In the short term, the coalition stands to help the city take back its schools, said Joe Slash, president and chief executive officer of the Indianapolis Urban League, a member of the coalition. "The takeover should serve as a startling reminder that we, as a community, need to put our students first," Slash said in a statement.

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