Sunday, July 9, 2017

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #300 – July 8, 2017

Dear Friends,

School funding from the new state budget which kicked in on July 1st is inadequate for our public school students.

The Indiana General Assembly’s final budget gave a meager increase for K-12 funding by historical standards: 1.6% in the first year (2017-18) and 1.7% in the second year (2018-2019).

In the past twenty years, only five years had lower increases. These five included the four years of the Great Recession (FY 2010 through FY 2013) along with FY 2015. This conclusion can readily be confirmed by reviewing the Total Funding column of the attachment showing Indiana’s history of K-12 funding increases for the past 20 years.

The small increases in the new budget will not allow public schools to keep up with inflation, which the most recent federal data reported to be 1.9% for the twelve months ending May 2017, down from 2.2% the previous month.

With an average increase this small, many districts with static enrollment will not be able to maintain their current level of programs or provide a much needed boost to teacher pay to combat the teacher shortage. This will produce program cuts in the curriculum areas not related to English and math testing, such as music, art, physical education, foreign language, social studies and vocational programs. It will raise class sizes.

Public school administrators in Indiana are skilled and experienced at cutting budgets in ways that don’t make headlines. Nevertheless, the programs available for our public school students are being cut while $146 million was diverted last school year (2016-17) to pay for private school tuition, of which $78 million paid the tuition for the 54% of voucher students who had never attended public schools at all.

Meanwhile, Indiana projects a $2 billion dollar surplus.

A review of the attached table will give you the full picture of school funding increases for the past 20 years.

Here’s How Public School Programs are Being Dismantled in a Climate of Inadequate Funding

Ask any local school leader and you can hear numerous examples of how inadequate funding hurts the education of public school students in Indiana. Here are two:
1) The Indianapolis Public Schools fared poorly in the budget battles of the 2017 session. The House budget passed in February projected a cut of $8 million from the previous year and an actual cut in per pupil funding of $90 or 1.2%. The Senate budget passed in late March gave IPS more hope, projecting a gain of $4 million from the previous year and a small gain in per pupil funding of $29 or 0.4%. The final budget negotiated in April dashed hopes for budget relief, giving IPS a projected cut of $100,000 from the previous year and an actual cut in per pupil funding of $7 per student or 0.1%.

Contrast this with state totals which increased per pupil funding by $74 per student or 1.1%.

If the Senate budget funding had prevailed, IPS would be getting $1.1 million more in 2017-18, after enrollment projections are equalized. This last minute loss of $1.1 million in the budget negotiations now looks big when considering the current community agony of closing three of seven IPS high schools for the stated goal of saving $4 million per year in general fund money. In retrospect, the Senate budget, if the House had agreed to it, would have given major help to the students and families of IPS.

The Senate budget funded public education at a higher level than the House budget. Public education advocates should thank the Senate for giving public education funding a higher priority than did the House. Senator Luke Kenley, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, played a powerful role in taking this stance. He has now announced his retirement on September 30th after 25 years in the Senate. His influence in prioritizing funding for public education will be missed.

2) Brown County Schools lost 27 students to private school vouchers in 2016-17, a diversion of $186,000 which put the budget in a precarious position. When the French teacher took a job in another district for 2017-18, the French language program which had been offered in Brown County for decades was ended to save the cost of one teacher. Hopes of an infusion from the new state budget to keep up current programs were dashed. The new state budget for Brown County projected a 3% cut from last year based on the projection that enrollment would drop by 72 students to 1801 in 2017-18. Dollars per student in the new budget climbed by $64, less than 1% (0.9%) and not enough to maintain programs. Once again, the inadequate state budget means fewer options for public school students.
When such cuts are made, local administrators get the blame when in most cases state legislators who write the state budget are actually the ones responsible for forcing such cuts to be made in some program by local leaders.

Previous budgets in earlier years, as the attachment shows, have given public school students a better opportunity for stable programs. Cuts in programs, larger class sizes and meager or non-existent teacher salary increases will be common stories for the public schools of Indiana during the two year budget which started July 1st.

Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand is again representing ICPE in the new budget session which began on January 3, 2017. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.

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