IPS was winner in state budget

July 20, 2009

IBJ is completely off base to suggest that the new state budget was “balanced on the backs of poor children.” As has been true of every state budget for the last two decades, students in Indianapolis Public Schools and other urban districts are actually the biggest winners in this budget.

IBJ was correct to point out that IPS receives more funding per child than suburban districts, but glossed over the size of that funding advantage to suggest that the differences are inconsequential. That could not be more wrong.

IPS will start this budget cycle with far more money than the state average—nearly 50 percent more. They’ll also experience far greater increases than the state average—almost 9 percent per student compared to 2.8 percent for the state. That’s an increase of $826 per student, and over $26.5 million when those increases are combined for all students.

IPS will argue that these amounts include funds that are targeted at special needs, and that is true. But if IPS is intent on pointing out the challenges of their student demographics, isn’t it also consistent to acknowledge the millions of dollars that it receives to address those needs?

In 2010, base tuition support for IPS will be $7,685 per student. When all state funds are added, that amount is $8,844; and with federal funds, the total is $10,274. That compares to respective state averages of just $5,744, $6,533 and $6,995. We must also note that these funds do not include property taxes, which adds a couple thousand dollars more per student.

Like IBJ, we acknowledge that IPS has challenges with its student demographics that require unique approaches and additional resources. But given the numbers above, how much is enough?

We agree that the state’s funding formula is flawed and that much work remains to be done. But given the ever-increasing funds, with results that include continuing academic failures and a growing exodus of families, we’d suggest that IPS needs to examine a lot more than funding.

Meanwhile, the real “losers” in this budget are students of growing districts like Hamilton Southeastern, Carmel and Avon, each of which start with far less money and receive cuts over the next two years. It was on their backs that the state budget was balanced.

Derek Redelman

Vice president, Indiana Chamber of Commerce

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