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UPDATE: GOP budget includes big shift in school funding

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Indiana schools could see major shifts in funding under a state budget plan presented by Republicans who control the Indiana House.

Republican leaders said that their two-year, $28 billion budget held most spending flat and avoided tax increases. The budget would keep overall education spending at current levels, but includes changes to the distribution formula will hurt some urban and rural schools and help some suburban schools. The House Ways and Means Committee is slated to vote on the budget proposal Friday morning.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, said the proposed school funding formula eliminates extra grants for small schools and only pays schools for students actually enrolled, eliminating the extra cash shrinking districts currently receive to help ease their financial losses after students leave.

"The money really should follow the child — and the child should exist," Espich said. "You shouldn't be funding a ghost child."

Republican lawmakers have pushed for years to even out the disparities between schools that get high per-pupil funding and those that get lower amounts. Shrinking urban and rural districts often get higher funding per student and fast-growing suburban districts get lower amounts.

When Democrats controlled the House in recent years, they insisted on buffers to prop up schools with declining enrollments in an effort to minimize teacher layoffs and increases in class size. Now that Republicans control the House, GOP leaders want to quickly equal out per-pupil funding levels.

The proposed funding formula aims to move each school district toward its "target" amount of per-student funding, which is a base amount of spending plus additional money for districts with larger numbers of poor students. Most districts are currently above their target amounts and would gradually receive less per-pupil funding to eventually reach their target within 9 years.

But a handful of districts currently more than 20 percent above their per-pupil targets would see bigger drops immediately because the formula states that districts cannot be more than 20 percent above target numbers. Espich said the abrupt change was needed.

"If you don't do something rather drastic, you have these outliers that are sucking up all the money," Espich said.

Education officials said the changes proposed Thursday would mean serious cuts of millions of dollars to some districts. Even keeping overall education spending flat over the next two years amounts to a cut, they argue, because of schools' rising costs.

"We knew this was not going to be a pretty picture," said Dennis Costerison, executive director of the Indiana Association of School Business Officials. "It's a cut. There's no other way to look at it."

Rep. William Crawford, D-Indianapolis, said schools are continually being told that they have to do more with less.

"I don't know how much they're going to be able to do," he said.

House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, said the budget proposal will hurt public schools, as will Republican education initiatives such as expanded charter schools and vouchers that use tax money to help parents send their children to private school.

"We're concerned about the whole approach to education this year," Bauer said. "There are going to be a lot of teachers laid off and a lot of programs cut this fall."

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  • More differences
    Also, let's think about simple things like paper, pencils, and other school supplies. Who remembers the Indy Star article about the IPS teacher that went dumpster diving in Carmel and retrieved a treasure trove of NEW, UNOPENED notebooks, boxes of crayons, pencils, etc. Look at the difference in what kind of support the schools in these districts get from the students' families. It shouldn't be that way, but it is a fact that schools have to deal with.
  • Expenses
    Don't forget to add in the salaries of special ed teachers, security, counselors. Also, I'm speculating now, but I'm guessing teachers salaries might be higher in e.g. IPS, Gary districts to try to attract teachers to work there. I'm guessing there's probably a fair amount of turnover in teacher ranks in those districts, but would like to know if facts bear that out?
  • Disparity...
    I'm pretty sure the IPS number in question is closer to $9,000 than $11,000 - but I won't let the facts get in the way of your story.

    I agree that the $2-3,000 does seem like a pretty big difference between two districts however it does make sense on a couple levels.

    First, that $3,000 goes to feeding better than 80% of the IPS kids lunch (and breakfast). I know this isn't your problem Rich, but I'm just stating a fact.

    Second, I'm sure some of that money goes to English as a 2nd language costs...again, not your problem.

    Third, HSE, Carmel, Fishers, etc are maintaining buildings that are much newer and more energy efficient. The facilities fee per student is far higher per student in IPS than the doughnut schools...at least for the next twenty years.

    Don't worry, HSE's portion will increase when more IPS kids start enrolling in the country schools. My kids go to a Charter (that we love), but the new bill that just passed is more likely to distribute students with special needs (financial, educational and emotional) to the private and county schools than do anything else.
  • INEQUALITY
    IPS, GARY= almost $11,000 per pupil
    HSE= $5,800 PER PUPIL

    Who is getting screwed in this deal...hint, it's not urban poor schools.
    • Someone please make them explain
      why is a singular focus on per-pupil funding is appropriate?? Sure, it makes a great sound bite. But stop and think about all of the expenses that different school districts have that are reflected in those numbers, and then let's compare.
    • Just close them
      Why bother having schools in urban and rural areas? Just make sure that the suburban white kids have, say, Carmel HS (isn't that the Governor's district?) and let the rest of us fend for ourselves. That fits perfectly with the rest of the legislature's apparent plan for Indiana. I wonder what will happen when all those UAW members with kids in rural public schools finally realize what they've voted for....

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