Terry Spradlin: State gets ed funding right but remains too prescriptive

Keywords Opinion / Viewpoint

viewpoint-spradlin-terryEvery two years, the Indiana General Assembly has the arduous, but critical, task of crafting a state budget and deciding how much money gets invested in K-12 education. We at the Indiana School Boards Association are at the forefront of the fight to get our schools the strongest level of funding possible to support more than 1 million Hoosier public-school students.

Funding for the K-12 education system in Indiana represents 50% of the state’s $34 billion budget. The new budget appropriates a total of $763 million in new money for K-12 public education in the next biennium.

The ISBA joined with other K-12 education associations to stand with government leaders, including Gov. Eric Holcomb, Speaker of the House Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray, to announce the funding increases.

While we will always be supportive of additional funding for teachers, classrooms and high-quality instruction, we are proud to support this budget and are determined to continue to play a leadership role while important discussions occur during the next two years.

At the beginning of the 2019 legislative session, the ISBA announced its legislative priorities, with adequate increases for public education as its top priority. During the legislative session, we worked with school administrator groups to form a coalition to develop strategies and priorities regarding school funding.

As a result of working together and finding common ground with the coalition, every one of our 10 priorities presented to legislative leaders is embedded in the state budget. The ISBA’s priorities included a 2.5% increase in tuition support, a school-safety grant and increases in funding of English Language Learning programs. Altogether, these increases total 4.5% annually—a substantial and meaningful funding increase for K-12 public education.

The final K-12 education budget allotment of $14.8 billion represents a historic funding level and the highest percentage increase since the Great Recession and the 2009 public-education funding changes.

The ISBA, however, continues to have some reservations about the prolific nature of the General Assembly to pass scores of new laws (52 this session) that impinge on local control of primary and secondary education.

The ISBA’s position remains that the unique learning needs of children are best addressed through local control by educators and locally elected school boards working with parents, students and the broader community they represent. We trust the professional educators who work with our students every day. The Legislature would do well to resist the temptation to demand a “top down” approach to governing our schools and school boards.

While the issue of mandates from above is not an insignificant one, the ISBA does not find it so concerning as to obviate the terrific work of legislators this year regarding funding increases, paying down pension costs and raising the amount dedicated to rewarding our best classroom leaders.

As always, we are proud and honored to fight for more resources for our more than 1 million Hoosier students and the much-deserved recognition for our educators.•

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Spradlin is executive director of the Indiana School Boards Association.

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