In order to assist school corporations during these tough times, House Republicans recently offered a plan that would have granted schools the financial flexibility to reprioritize funds and fill gaps in their general operating budgets.
Under the House Republican plan, each school would be allowed to transfer money into their general operating fund from other funds managed by the school (such as the transportation fund, technology fund, etc).
Current law prohibits schools from using money in these other funds to pay for general school operating costs, which limits the ability of schools to efficiently manage their resources. Most importantly, the plan allows schools to make their own decisions on how best to utilize this flexibility based on their own unique needs and the amount of money they have available in their various funds.
This plan did include one stipulation.
School corporations would have to agree they would not use any of the transferred dollars for employee salary increases. I felt this was an important restriction given Indiana's current fiscal climate. We need to focus all additional dollars to the classroom and ensure that no teachers are laid off. I could not in good conscience support the transfer of funds without this stipulation, because the needs of our children must come first.
Overall, I believe that the House Republican plan is the right policy for schools during these difficult economic times because I think it is critical that we give schools the flexibility to fully offset the loss of revenue from the state.
Unfortunately, the House Republican plan did not receive any support from the House majority and our ideas were not included in the majority's education bill, House Bill 1367, which passed out of the House by a party line vote of 51-48.
I chose not to support HB 1367 because I believe the bill does not provide schools with enough flexibility to access alternative revenue sources to fill their budget gaps. In addition, it jeopardizes several critical programs that teachers and students use to measure progress in the classroom.
For example, the bill jeopardizes state funding for tests such as the K-3 diagnostic test and grades 3-8 acuity testing. These tests help teachers identify students who need extra help in the classroom or students who are having difficulty grasping certain key concepts.
The PSAT was another test on the chopping block. This is a prerequisite for students who wish to apply to the National Merit Scholar program.
Flexibility, accountability and alternatives must be part of the educational promise we offer to Hoosiers. House Bill 1367, however, represents a step backward in our effort to create a world class education for every child in our state.
As we continue through the second half of session, I can assure you that I will continue to fight to give schools, teachers and students every option to succeed by increasing flexibility in funding during these difficult economic times.
Please feel free to contact me about this or any other State issue at 1-800-382-9841 or by email at email@example.com.