Last night, I spoke at the IPS board meeting. During this meeting, I requested IPS leaders share data about schools in our city, not all of which are IPS schools (but all are public schools), that are doing a much better job of closing the opportunity gap. I also asked them to take action and create a plan to partner and grow schools that are seeing much better outcomes for Black and Brown students.  

Watch my speech to the IPS board here:

View data about the opportunity gap in our city here:

This is not the first time I have asked IPS leaders to close the opportunity gap. For years, parents like me have been asking IPS leaders to use data to drive decisions that can help grow schools that working for Black and Brown children. If this data tugs at your heart, please join me in being a part of the solution. The more people who sign the petition, the more likely IPS leaders will act.  

I went to the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) Action Session in August to thank IPS leaders for agreeing to create a language justice plan back in December and to speak about why this plan is critical for students.

Asistí a la Sesión de Acción de las Escuelas Públicas de Indianápolis (IPS) en agosto para agradecer a los líderes de IPS por aceptar crear un plan de justicia lingüística en diciembre y hablar sobre por qué este plan es fundamental para los estudiantes.

Watch or read what I told IPS leaders below | Mire o lea lo que les dije a los líderes de IPS a continuación:

Read my speech in English

Good evening Superintendent Dr. Johnson and IPS board members,

My name is Lizzbeth Arias and I am a High School ELA Tutor at GEO Next Generation. I am here to thank you for agreeing to create a language justice plan back in December and to speak about why this plan is critical for students.

I want to start by telling you about an encounter I recently had with a really young child who was crying in the hallway of the school next door to mine. In this school, absolutely no one speaks Spanish. And this student was crying in the bathroom and in the hallway because he did not understand anything. He was trying to follow the other students but ultimately felt lost. He was in a new place, and he couldn’t communicate his needs or understand what he was meant to be doing. Trying to learn in an environment where you cannot be heard or understood is an injustice. I support IPS in creating a plan for language justice because I don’t want any student to feel how that boy did, but I know there are students across this city and this district who feel this way every day. Can you imagine arriving somewhere new and always feeling lost?

Supporting a plan for language justice is one thing, but for it to be successful, you have to get feedback from the immigrant and ELL communities. You will need to find ways to reach the families who do not have access to technology, who work long hours, who do not speak English and have possibly felt outcasted due to this, and whom you may not have heard from before.

Behind every English learning student is a community of parents and as you gather feedback to create the plan, I hope you also create communities of parents in schools. These parent communities can help you reach more families and gather more input. They can also create a sense of belonging and understanding in schools that need it. For our students to succeed in school, we need to make sure they are fully supported. A triangle of family, school, and student has to exist.

Again, I thank you for supporting the creation of a language justice plan. I hope through thoughtful feedback from ELL families, the plan can become a model for even more schools in our city. I also hope you offer time for the public to offer feedback on the plan and that you vote on the final version. And please ensure the district takes the time to gather input from the hard-to-reach parents, who desperately want to be a part of their child’s education but sometimes feel forced to live in the shadows. This will be a challenge for IPS, but it’s well worth the time, and you have partners who are ready and willing to help.

Thank you for your time.

Lee mi discurso en español

Buenas noches, Superintendente Dr. Johnson y miembros de la junta de IPS,

Mi nombre es Lizzbeth Arias y soy tutora de ELA de secundaria en GEO Next Generation. Estoy aquí para agradecerles por aceptar crear un plan de justicia lingüística en diciembre y para hablar sobre por qué este plan es crítico para los estudiantes.

Quiero comenzar contándoles sobre un encuentro que tuve recientemente con un niño muy pequeño que estaba llorando en el pasillo de la escuela al lado de la mía. En esta escuela, absolutamente nadie habla español. Y este estudiante estaba llorando en el baño y en el pasillo porque no entendía nada. Estaba tratando de seguir a los otros estudiantes, pero finalmente se sintió perdido. Estaba en un lugar nuevo, y no podía comunicar sus necesidades o entender lo que estaba destinado a hacer. Tratar de aprender en un ambiente donde no puedes ser escuchado o entendido es una injusticia. Apoyo a IPS en la creación de un plan para la justicia lingüística porque no quiero que ningún estudiante sienta cómo lo hizo ese niño, pero sé que hay estudiantes en esta ciudad y este distrito que se sienten así todos los días. ¿Te imaginas llegar a un lugar nuevo y sentirte siempre perdido?

Apoyar un plan para la justicia lingüística es una cosa, pero para que tenga éxito, debe obtener comentarios de las comunidades de inmigrantes y ELL. Tendrá que encontrar formas de llegar a las familias que no tienen acceso a la tecnología, que trabajan largas horas, que no hablan inglés y posiblemente se han sentido marginados debido a esto, y de quienes quizás no haya escuchado antes.

Detrás de cada estudiante que aprende inglés hay una comunidad de padres y a medida que reúna comentarios para crear el plan, espero que también cree comunidades de padres en las escuelas. Estas comunidades de padres pueden ayudarlo a llegar a más familias y reunir más información. También pueden crear un sentido de pertenencia y comprensión en las escuelas que lo necesitan. Para que nuestros estudiantes tengan éxito en la escuela, debemos asegurarnos de que reciban todo el apoyo. Tiene que existir un triángulo de familia, escuela y estudiante.

Una vez más, les agradezco por apoyar la creación de un plan de justicia lingüística. Espero que a través de los comentarios reflexivos de las familias ELL, el plan pueda convertirse en un modelo para aún más escuelas en nuestra ciudad. También espero que ofrezca tiempo para que el público ofrezca comentarios sobre el plan y que vote sobre la versión final. Y asegúrese de que el distrito se tome el tiempo para recopilar comentarios de los padres difíciles de alcanzar, que desean desesperadamente ser parte de la educación de sus hijos, pero a veces se sienten obligados a vivir en las sombras. Esto será un desafío para IPS, pero vale la pena el tiempo, y tiene socios que están listos y dispuestos a ayudar.

Gracias por su tiempo.

I strongly believe that for any plan to succeed, it must consider the feedback of the people it is meant to help, which is why I spoke at the IPS board meeting last night. I thanked IPS leaders and also asked them to seek more parental input, especially from our ESL parents in IPS, as they produce the final plan.

Read my speech or watch the video of it below:

Read my speech

Good evening Superintendent Johnson and IPS board members,

My name is Mary Bova and I am an ELL teacher in Indianapolis. I am here tonight because I am grateful that this district voted to support the production of a language justice plan back in December and I want to see that plan be as strong and as beneficial as possible to our ELL students and families.

I strongly believe that for any plan to succeed, it must consider the feedback of the people it is meant to help, so I am also here to ask you to seek more parental input, especially from our ELL parents in IPS, as you produce this final plan.

Without feedback, we don’t know what our families want or need or get the full picture of what it really means to be an ELL student or parent. Without feedback, the plan won’t account for the entire spectrum of English Language Learning students – from students who are fully bilingual and born here to our newcomers. Without feedback, you might not see what I see in my ELL students every day — that they are the hardest-working and most dedicated people I know.

From my experience as a teacher, I know ESL parents want to be involved, but without equitable language access, they are dependent on receiving information regarding their children’s lives at school from their children and are often at the mercy of an unjust system.

I have seen our ELL families be ignored and go unheard, which is one reason I realize gathering this feedback won’t be easy. But if this district truly wants to be inclusive, I believe being intentional about gathering feedback for a language justice plan will show our families that this is something different from their previous experience. As the district considers how to gather feedback, please also consider the families who are afraid to speak up, the families who may fear being deported, and the families who have no access to technology or the internet. As I said, there are going to be obstacles to making connections with some of these families, but I truly believe this plan can offer great, positive change that helps IPS ELL families feel included and ELL students be supported.

Language Justice for me means that all students are seen. It means that parents and students have equitable opportunities to succeed in the classroom. It means ensuring students aren’t repeating classes they do not need to repeat due to communication issues. With a great plan for language justice, instances that overcrowd classrooms and put ELL students at a disadvantage could be avoided.

Thank you so much for voting to produce a language justice plan in December. I hope to see this board vote on the final plan once it is produced and includes critical feedback from the very families it is meant to help.

My parents brought me to this country when I was five years old. As an immigrant, I had to navigate the education system on my own. It was difficult, but I learned early on how to be an advocate.

Now, as an organizer with Stand for Children Indiana, I want to share what I’ve learned and help as many people as I can advocate for their children to receive an equitable education, which is why I am hosting an online workshop next Wednesday evening.

If you’ve ever seen an issue with our education system and wished you could fix it, I hope to see you online at 6 p.m. on August 23.

Because language justice plays such a huge role in student outcomes and parent engagement, we spoke at the IPS board meeting in June.
We thanked the board for listening to us and passing a language justice policy back in December because we know everyone needs to be at the table for academic growth and equity.

We requested IPS leaders share a public update on the state of language justice in the very near future and ensure all families, no matter their language, are welcome to that update. We also asked them to invest time in gathering input from families that have long felt silenced because we believe it will help this district continually improve a great policy.

Watch our testimony, translated by Stand Indiana Organizer Carolina Figueroa, here:

Come to our upcoming workshops to learn about Stand for Children Indiana’s mission and team, what advocacy means and how to get involved!

We want to support you in finding your place in the movement to fight for justice and ensure children – especially those facing generational poverty and systemic racism – receive an equitable education free of opportunity gaps.

When I was only six years old, my father was wrongfully convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. My mother now had five children to care for on her own. Because she never finished school, helping us with our education was hard for her. My mom didn’t know about GPAs or graduation requirements. She didn’t know how to be involved with my schooling. Today, I am deeply involved with my son’s education because I realized then how important it was. Today, because of a voicemail I received from Stand Indiana years ago, I have an abundance of support in my journey to becoming a parent advocate. 

In 2011, my son was diagnosed with Autism. I didn’t know what that was. I was scared for him, so I started researching it online to learn how to help. His first year of school was so rough – he was suspended on his first day of kindergarten and most of the 21 days that followed. 

That was my first experience of really feeling like a battle was beginning. 

From there, I enrolled him in a new school and worked with the staff and teachers to come up with a plan. Near the end of his kindergarten year, I received a voicemail from Stand Indiana about an event, and I went. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I knew I wanted to support my son and his education. 

I got to the meeting an hour late, after work. During this intro meeting, I heard Stand Indiana’s regional organizing director at the time say, “You are your child’s first and most important teacher.” It made me realize that what I was doing wasn’t in vain. 

I would sometimes feel drained, but I left this meeting feeling like I could conquer the world, help my child, and that I wasn’t alone. 

Since that day, I’ve been deeply involved with my son’s education, and Stand Indiana has been by my side every step of the way. Stand has become family to me. The organization and its mission are so close to my heart. 

Through Stand, I’ve learned parent involvement is everything. My involvement will help my child receive the best education possible and help other children too. By creating a community of engaged parents, I believe we can create a culture in which children know they are supported and community members know parent voices matter. 

If you live in Indianapolis, I encourage you to start getting involved now. One way to get involved is to take this survey. It only took me a few minutes to complete, but it was a great way to express what changes I most want to see. The results will help determine what Stand for Children Indiana and parents like me advocate for in the coming year.  

The IPS board is moving fast on a plan to fund the district’s strategic plan, which impacts all of our children and our neighborhoods. The big concern: some schools and children are being unfairly treated in the plan.

The referendum, which would use my tax dollars and yours, would short-change some schools in the IPS network by nearly $1,000 per child. That’s millions of dollars that some schools won’t get. How is this fair? And how can we expect those schools to pay their teachers and prevent them from leaving for jobs in schools that have more money?

Please email the IPS board and ask them to delay any vote on the referendum until the funding is shared equitably.

No plan in our education system should determine winners and losers among our students.

In September I spoke to the IPS board to tell them about the importance of replication and closing the opportunity gap for Black and Brown students. IPS students today are not getting the quality education they deserve. Data tells us which schools are getting results and which are not.  

So, it is reasonable to say, we can’t replicate just any school. Replication should be used for the schools that are getting results for ALL students, schools that prove they close the opportunity gap.   

While it is NOT included in IPS’ “Rebuilding Stronger” plan, I believe replicating Paramount is vital because data shows that they are effectively closing the opportunity gap for Black and Brown students three times more than other schools in the city.  

The plan IPS released on September 13 does not include partnering with data-proven schools like Paramount.  

As a grandparent who has joined many other parents at the IPS podium for months calling for growing schools that work for children of color, I am very disappointed. I don’t feel like parents – especially Black and Brown parents – are being listened to when it comes to this plan.  

Instead of our suggestions, the plan calls for more CFI schools being added to the district when data shows they have among the largest opportunity gaps in the state of Indiana for Black and Brown students.  

These schools may be in high-demand with some families, but I’d like to know where is the evidence that parents of color are asking for more CFI schools?   

It is imperative that the board takes a deeper dive into the Rebuilding Stronger plan to ensure there will be more equitable school options for our children and grandchildren.  

I hope you’ll stand with me and ask IPS leaders to halt the vote on the Rebuilding Stronger plan until changes are made.

In September, right after Superintendent Johnson released the Rebuilding Stronger plan, I spoke at the IPS action session. I used my voice because I was upset, and I felt unheard. You can read what I said below.  

Alongside other parents, I have been pushing for this district to replicate schools with similar demographics to most IPS schools that close the opportunity gap for a LONG time.  

In March of 2021, we released our Vision for a More Just and Equitable IPS. Before this, we spent months working on the document. We asked IPS leaders to not only set goals for closing the opportunity gap, but to grow schools, like Paramount, that were proven to get results. 

MARCH 2021 | Parents want more action from Indianapolis Public Schools on racial equity goals 

The July after we shared our vision with the district, we held a press conference and delivered over 1200 signatures from community members and parents supporting our plan.  

JULY 2021 | Parents deliver petition to IPS, outline steps to create a more equitable district 

While we are grateful the IPS board set bold goals for closing the opportunity gaps, we know that bold goals alone won’t help students who are behind. We need models that are closing the opportunity gap. We hoped to see Paramount be a part of the Rebuilding Stronger plan. We hoped the schools the district decided to replicate would be proven models.  

Did you know the CFI model has among the largest racial achievement gaps in the entire state?  I don’t understand why IPS would choose this model for ALL students.  

As a parent group that has only grown since we first launched our vision, we are now taking another stand. We are launching a new petition asking IPS leaders to halt the vote on the Rebuilding Stronger plan until changes are made. I hope you’ll join us.


Good evening Superintendent Dr. Johnson and IPS board members.   

My name is Dontia Dyson and I am an IPS father. My daughter Dayonna is in the 8th grade at Longfellow. She plays many sports and has a goal to get straight A’s.   

I also have a five-year-old son, Dontia Jr., who is soon to be attending Pre-K at a program designed for kids with autism — to support them before they attend mainstream public schools. My youngest son is not school-aged just yet.  He’s only two.  

My five-year-old will attend IPS schools here in about a year. And because I have advocated for so long for a more just and equitable IPS, I was really hopeful about your Rebuilding Stronger plan and the future it could allow my sons to have in IPS.   

Now that you’ve released the plan, I am a bit less hopeful and to be honest, I feel unheard.   

Alongside other parents, I have been pushing for this district to replicate schools with similar demographics to most IPS schools that close the opportunity gap.   

Time and time again, we have pointed to the Paramount schools because they are clearly doing amazing things. I was hoping you’d work toward pursuing a partnership with them. I think those schools are the best way to close our opportunity gaps. I know replicating a school outside the district takes building that partnership and coming to an agreement, but if it is what is BEST for IPS kids, I think we have to keep pushing to make it happen.   

THERE IS NO WAY to rebuild stronger unless we are growing the schools where all kids are doing well and getting a great education.   

Thank you for your time tonight. I really hope to see this board consider a partnership with Paramount and the schools that will close the opportunity gap for our kids. I hope you then reconsider what that means for Rebuilding Stronger.