Over the next two years, Gov. Eric Holcomb’s budget plan would send an additional $280 million to Indiana schools — a 3 percent increase that has some lawmakers pushing for more.
The proposal, released Tuesday, reflects a steady increase in the past several years in Indiana school funding, which is decided every two years. It would also double the amount the state spends on preschool tuition in 2018 and 2019.
“(Schools have) have consistently received … increases,” said Micah Vincent, director of the Office of Management and Budget. He noted that the governor’s team was also dealing with state revenue that fell short of initial projections for 2017. “This is a starting point, and we’ll work with our partners in the General Assembly.”
Some lawmakers said that’s not enough.
“Public education funding will only receive small increases,” said Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, a member of the State Budget Committee. “(The governor’s plan) shows a lack of priority on education funding.”
During the state’s last budget session in 2015, then-Gov. Mike Pence also proposed a 3 percent increase for schools—an increase of about $200 million — although his budget also included extra money for teacher performance grants, charter schools, schools working to improve, and those that planned to experiment with new roles for teachers.
Ultimately, Indiana schools saw a more than $460 million increase in basic state aid to schools to fund each student’s education in the final budget.
In addition to the proposed $280 million increase in basic state aid, Holcomb’s plan also would set aside:
- $1 million per year for coordinating science, technology, engineering and math programs across the state.
- $1 million per year, with the possibility of federal matching grants, for districts to support internet access.
- $20 million per year for preschool tuition, up from $10 million.
Tallian also said the governor’s preschool proposal, which would keep the program in the same five counties it already serves, fell short.
“The pre-kindergarten program that exists in only five Indiana counties will receive more money, but the benefits of this program will remain available in those five counties, leaving the vast majority of Hoosiers without pre-kindergarten options,” Tallian said.
Education funding for K-12 schools makes up about 52 percent of the state’s approximately $15 billion budget. That’s by design: Since lawmakers changed the budget process in 2009, most local property tax dollars flow to the state general fund, where they are then distributed to schools through a funding formula.
Chalkbeat is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.