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.