Education is everyone's priority. It's a topic that is not limited to just teachers or parents. Anyone who cares about the future of our young students or the future of Indiana should care about education.
After all, it's not only the key to the success of a student, but it also brings jobs to communities and can better an economy. Everything is interlinked through education.
Funding for education, however, is a completely different conversation. Every legislator would stand in support of providing as much funding that is available to education. However, the debate starts when you begin discussing what funds are considered "available."
I believe that we should not spend more than what we have-it is a concept that Hoosier families live by, so why should state government be any different. If we don't have the funds, we shouldn't be spending like we do.
As it stands, education funding makes up more than half of the state budget. However, on Friday, we announced good news that the revenue forecast showed a drastic increase in state revenue.
As a result, we are able to put an additional $150 million into K-12 education, emphasizing early learning opportunities for Hoosier students.
A quarter of the $150 million will be used to fund the extension of full-day kindergarten (FDK) to every school district in the state. A smaller amount will go towards a "teacher excellence" fund, which will reward teachers through pay-based on performance, not seniority.
Currently, many schools statewide apply and receive grants to help pay for FDK. The grant program was established in 2007 to provide financial incentives to schools who wish to provide full day kindergarten programs. Since the program was enacted, the number of Hoosier kindergartners participating in FDK programs has increased from about 10,000 in 2005 to nearly 57,000 in 2010.
The grant amount per student is a per capita amount that varies depending on the number of applicants. Schools may also use general funds, federal Title I funds or parent fees to fund their FDK programs. With an additional $37.5 million to help with those fees, more schools will be able to free up some of their resources to fund other programs.
I have been serious about education since the start, and I will continue to be. We will continue to find any additional dollar we can to give to education because education is the key to success.