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Saturday, April 13, 2024

My simple solution to Indiana’s public school funding dilemma

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The major issue facing the 2015 Indiana General Assembly is Indiana’s complex School Funding Formula. The Republican legislative supermajority wants to provide more dollars per student for suburban districts like Hamilton Southeastern, Avon, Greenwood and other places that have cut their budgets including staff, despite enrollment growth.

Lawmakers are upset districts which are losing students, in urban and rural areas, get more cash per student because of a “complexity index” Indiana uses in part for school funding.

The “complexity index” calculates the percentage of a district’s students who qualify for Federal free and reduced lunch, a measure of household poverty. Though complex, the “complexity index” brings an element of fairness into funding Indiana’s public schools because of the legitimate increased costs of educating students from lower income households.

But the fear is Republicans want to severely curb the index, which could devastate schools educating our most vulnerable students.

School funding starts with a basic – Every school, district and charter school received this school year a basic per student grant of $4,569; though some received slightly more.

In Marion County, nine of the 11 districts received the base amount.

IPS ($4,861.20) and Speedway ($4,760.72) received slightly more.

Then the complexity index kicks in and that jumps the amount received by many urban and rural schools, driven by the percentage of students in or near the poverty level.

Total basic per students funding for Marion County’s eleven districts ranges from the low end, Franklin Townships $5,462.66 and Washington Township’s $5,950.26, to IPS’s $7,058.37; Wayne Township’s $6,500.70 and Warren Township’s $6,397.95.

One of the fights in the school funding battle has to do with charter schools. In his two year budget proposal, Gov. Mike Pence proposed giving charter schools $1,500 more on their basic per student funding amount.

Republicans and the school reform crowd are pushing the hype that charter schools are woefully underfunded and that they need more dollars. They complain about the high per student dollars that go to IPS.

Well, guess what I learned? You just read that IPS’ total current per student funding is $7,058.37.

But in Marion County alone, 11 charters received more dollars per student than IPS. Under what perverted logic does Gov. Pence and the GOP super majority use to justify giving charter schools an additional $1,500 per student funding. Using the current funding formula, that would give every charter school in Indianapolis more funds per student than IPS or any of the township school districts!

According to a pamphlet distributed by the House Republican majority, Indiana’s current two year budget spends $15.4 BILLION dollars on K-12 education, including charters and vouchers.

Gov. Pence only wants to increase school funding by 2 percent next year and 1 percent the following year. An increase of $200 million in a nearly $16 billion total.

I do agree the basic school funding level should be increased. But what’s fair and how much would that really cost?

Currently, there’s some 1.05 million enrolled in Indiana’s public schools.

An increase of $500 in the basic per student funding, for all schools, would cost $523.7 million yearly or $1.05 billion for the two year state budget cycle. In a $15.4 billion current budget that’s an increase of 6.8 percent.

Charters would also get the $500 per student jump, as would districts losing students like IPS. The additional revenue for IPS would be $14.7 million; $5.6 million for Pike; $4.4 million for Franklin, $7.4 million for Lawrence, $7.9 million for Wayne.

Forcing school districts with high poverty to lose revenue at the expense of wealthy suburban and city districts is unfair and un-Biblical.

So, let’s really invest in Indiana’s K-12 education by raising the basic per student school funding formula for all schools by $500 or 6.8 percent overall.

Aren’t the million Hoosier students in our K-12 public schools worth the investment?

What I’m Hearing in the Streets

In three weeks filing closes for mayor races. And so far only Jocelyn Tandy-Adande is the only official Republican candidate for Indianapolis mayor. No one else’s made a move. And the political pundits who’re typically out predicting what Republicans will do have been unnaturally silent.

It’s extraordinary that with a retiring Republican mayor whose supporters and media apologists claim has been one of the “greatest” Mayors in Indy’s history that no Republican has jumped out to pick up Ballard’s torch.

At the rate the Republican “search” for mayor Greg Ballard’s replacement is going, Tandy-Adande could actually end up the party’s nominee to replace him.

Meanwhile on the Democratic side, activist and gadfly Larry Vaughn has filed to run against former U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett. Vaughn ran for IPS School Board in 2012 against Sam Odle and got 37 percent of the vote.

An Indy native and proud Attucks grad, Arthur Carter was a legend, serving our country as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen. A businessman, Carter was one of the most honored men of his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, and an extraordinarily generous human being.

Arthur Carter died last week at age 92. An unsung lion of our African-American community, Carter’s contributions were many, including to your own Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper, and he’ll be deeply missed. My deepest sympathies to his family and friends.

See ‘ya next week!

You can reach Amos Brown at ac-brown@aol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @amoswtlcindy.

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