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'Ghost' students cost Indiana $94 million in 2009

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An Indiana practice of paying schools for students no longer in attendance illustrates the need for changes in how schools are funded, the state's top education official says.

Indiana sent $94 million to schools in 2009 to support 16,315 "ghost" students who were no longer enrolled. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett urged lawmakers last week to support a formula that would let education money follow each student.

"That's just absolutely horrendous that we're spending $94 million on students that don't even exist," said state Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Crothersville.

Under the current school funding formula, the state provides schools with funding for students who leave at a declining rate for three additional years. The practice known as the "de-ghoster" has been part of the funding formula since 1981.

Critics say the money should go toward districts with increasing enrollment. But state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, says districts need the money to pay expenses that continue even if enrollment drops.

"It's not money that's being wasted, it's money that's being used by those students that are left," Rogers, a former Gary school teacher, told The Times of Munster.

Indiana spends about $8.5 billion on elementary and secondary education each year.

A General Assembly committee is studying the funding formula and is expected to meet again later this month to recommend a plan of action for the upcoming legislative session.

State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, the committee's chairman, said education leaders and lawmakers want "what's best for the students in Indiana."

"The different ways of coming at it — that's the struggle," Charbonneau said.

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  • I repeat
    The numbers for those schools that grow, and therefore the dollars associated with them, are misleading, as they ALL lose students after the 'dollar count' is taken in September. For example this year, if a student cound for a school was 28,000, that school will get monies relative to that count - even though in the weeks that follow it may lose 1500 students to IPS or another district. Those schools won't get those monies. They will stay with the school they were in prior to September 17th.
  • Check the Content
    Did you read the part about the money staying with the schools for three years? The schools that are losing students are keeping the money while the growing school districts are not receiving additional monies. So while IPS lost 950 students for 2010-2011 the hit to their budget won't be fully realized until 2013-2014.
    • MORE TAXES NEEDED
      Schools need more tax dollars to fund athletic programs, that is to be the focus of the public education system in Indiana schools
    • Money not wasted
      OK. Schools get there money based upon the student cound at ADM time. It is a fact that many schools, charter and township, lose students after ADM - some say even force out students - who then come to IPS for the remainer of the year. IPS doesn't get money for those stuents. The charter and township students keep the money they already have. This also needs to come under consideration.
    • really?
      I don't think its very productive to talk about how HSE or IPS is better than one another. The fact is they're very different systems with very different challenges. IPS has the difficult job of educating students who live in poverty in unstable homes and HSE has to deal with unsustainable growth serving mainly upper-middle class households. And to say all of IPS's schools are trash is just out-right false. I personally know many families that have the means to send their kids anywhere in the city and have chosen to send them to one of the quality magnet programs that IPS provides (such as The Center for Inquiry).
    • IPS is a Hole
      Anyone who thinks IPS is better than HSE obviously got an education at IPS and cannot compare and contrast.IPS is sooooo good that over the past decade thousands and thousands of people have FLOCKED to suburban districts to get a good education. IPS is a crap hole of a school system whose biggest problem is families that don't pay attention to their kids and want to blame someone else for it. HSE on the otherhand is an exemplary school system that has outperformed most other school systems in the state at a state funding level ranked in the lowest 5%.
    • Get off your high horse
      I went to IPS, then to IU on a full ride scholarship, then to Notre Dame law school on a full ride scholarship. IPS might no be the best, but at least I didn't have to attend a HSE school!

      IPS needs to fix a lot of problems. Letting all of the cash flood out when students leave does not help IPS build a better system, it slows it down.
      • C.R.E.A.M. Get the Money
        Also, If the money follows the student there are higher incentives to keep the students that each school has and attract new students through improved academic reputations. Win Win.
      • They do exist
        These students do exist but have moved elsewhere. The problem is, the money does not follow them. This is why growing school districts like Hamilton Southeastern are suing Indiana because the money is not following the students they receive. Under the current system, when a growing school receives a new student, only a partial amount of the funding goes to the new school while the remainder stays at the old school for a student who no longer exists in the old school. Most growing schools alreayd get a significantly less amount of money per student and new students pull even more money away from the students who are already at the growing school. This violates a students right to free and equal public education and needs to be changed. Much of this ghost money goes to IPS where they are the master of wasting money on administrators, curriculum directors, ect.

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