HICKS: Good local governance will support schools

Mike Hicks
April 17, 2010
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

As in all 50 states and most countries, a good many school districts in Indiana are facing budget cuts this year. We can rest easier knowing that cuts in Indiana are small compared with those in most other states, leaving us with about the national average in spending per student.

There is much confusion about what is happening to schools. As of two years ago, the state paid 85 percent of school costs, with local property taxpayers funding the remainder. Property-tax reforms in Indiana shifted the last 15 percent of school funding to the state budget. So, except in a few places, all money spent on schools comes from the general fund.

The budget cuts most schools are feeling are really a result of the school-funding formula and the recession, not property-tax reform. There are some great lessons here.

School-funding formulas around the country move resources from taxpayers in richer and more urban places to residents of poorer and more rural places. Indiana’s does so as well. This is right and good. The problem is that rural places are losing population, while urban places are growing.

This is especially true among families of school-age children. As a result, school districts with a shrinking population have schools that were designed for student bodies twice the current size. The funding formula for declining places will appropriately shrink the total dollars these places receive. Dollars follow students to faster-growing places. We might well quibble with the particulars of the formula, but in essence this is what must happen.

Reorganizing school districts is difficult, but we Hoosiers have done so before. The first time came with the advent of school buses, the second as farm employment shrank dramatically in the 1940s through 1960s. Our experience today is tame by comparison.

Ironically, shrinking school districts get three distinct advantages. First, they already have more than enough school space. Second, they are already disproportionate recipients of school funding and, finally, there’s a comfortable time lapse in the application of the formula. Challenges in rural places are far less than in urban and suburban communities. It is the fast-growing places where the resource challenge is most dire.

Successful and growing communities must always play “catch-up” with school funding. These are also places where tax dollars in general flow to poorer, typically rural regions of the state. It is easy to sense the frustration of a growing, successful community.

I had the fortune to visit such a place–Hamilton County–late last year. I spoke at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast on the eve of a key referendum vote on supplemental school funding. I made a bold prediction that the referendum would pass easily. It did, with an overwhelming majority.

The reason was simple: School officials explained their needs clearly and effectively, and had a track record of fiscal prudence. There’s a lesson here. Effective local government will always find willing voters to pay for more of it.•


Hicks is director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at cber@bsu.edu.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Yes sir keep cashing those 300K a year checks direct to IMS, while millions disappear from the teams like Rahal's. Guess there wasn't enough ka- ching going around to keep Sarah Fisher in business without their "merger". LOL._____.Meanwhile back in Realville the series with the "best racing in the world" drew what appeared to be about 5000 live spectators ( and probably 1500 of those Target "freebies", and was beaten in the ratings by a series that reportedly consists of "parades" and aired while most people are still sleeping. That will generate those big ka-chings for sure. :-). But, hey, as long as the Speedway gets the cash who gives a damn about the teams?

  2. Welcome to PETERSON LOAN AGENCY Company (A Personalized Service for All Your Financial Needs) We, Liberal Investment Company Providers offers loan at a very low interest rate of 2%, we offer Personal loans, Debt Consolidation Loan, Venture Capital, Business Loan, Educational Loan, Home Loan, and Loan for any reason and urgent needs!. with a maximum duration of 30 years. Have you been turned down by your bank? Do you have bad credit? Do you have unpaid bills? Are you in debt? Do you need to set up a business? Worry no more as we are here to offer you a low interest loan. Our loan ranges from $5,000-USD (Five Thousand US dollars) to $50, 000,000.00.(Fifty Million US dollars). We also lend in USA DOLLARS EURO and POUNDS ! Fill in this form and forward it to our email: PETERSONLOANAGENCY@GMAIL.COM 1. Your Full names:_______ 2. Contact address:_______ 3. Country Of Residence:______ 4. Loan Amount Required:________ 5. Duration:_____ 6. Gender:_____ 7. Occupation:________ 8. Monthly Income:_______ 9. Date Of Birth:________ 10.Telephone Number:________ 11. Purpose of loan:_________ Yours In Service, MR PERRY, PETERSONLOANAGENCY@GMAIL.COM

  3. If I could actually get the prices...I would do this on my own. We need laws that force provides to publish the costs they will charge. Everyone else gives you the price in advance...except hospitals.

  4. I was under the impression that fencing is not allowed on a front yard and that on a corner, both sides are considered "front" yards, therefore can't be fenced without a variance. Also impedes the visibility for drivers at the intersection. Am I understanding this correctly? Might be why a fence was not included in the plans and a request for a variance will have to be made?.

  5. I was a big fan of Cowards and Carrots, which I got a chance to see at the show. It's currently on Kickstarter, but the designer also put out What's He Building in There last year, which got a fair amount of buzz.