[r53] Education remains top priority (4/26/2010)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Start Date: 4/26/2010 All Day
End Date: 4/26/2010

Education is one of several difficult subjects we face during the waning days of the session. If we work together, we can provide schools with flexibility in education funding, while at the same time prevent teacher layoffs and larger class sizes. Education is too important to be controlled by any single group.

 

It's time to unite in order to protect children.

 

What we do--or fail to do-- will have an impact on their future and Indiana's future.

As of the end of last week, there were two live bills that sought to address a $300 million reduction in K-12 education funding: Senate Bill 309 and House Bill 1367.

SB 309 was assigned to the House Committee on Education, which, over the last week, has met on three separate occasions to address problems surrounding the bill.

 

SB 309 would allow schools to transfer money among funds that are normally restricted. As written when it came to the House, the bill would have required schools to agree on freezing all employee pay for one year in exchange for funding flexibility.

 

On two occasions, the Republican members of the committee proposed requiring schools that opt for the funding flexibility to agree not to lay off any teachers.

 

Having a highly qualified teacher in the classroom is the single most important factor in student success. Cuts are necessary, but reduction to teaching staff should be a last resort, and the House Republican amendment made that position clear.

 

However, the amendment did not pass out of committee; the bill did.

 

The bill included language to allow flexibility in funding with the certainty that the funds are used solely to avoid school employee layoffs (this includes teachers, administrators, school staff, etc.).

 

However, another amendment passed out of committee to give schools a loophole to lay off teachers-contradicting the earlier amendment. If schools evaluate their available funds and determine there isn't enough funding to keep school employees and protect instructional programs, they can layoff school employees--including teachers.

 

The bill will head to the full House sometime this week for further discussion.

The conversation on education is complex. Anytime numbers are listed, funding is mentioned and schools have to make cuts, everything gets confusing.

Saying that, I wanted to clarify and apologize for some confusion regarding what was said about how much the state was cutting in K-12 education throughout the next year.

On Dec. 28, Gov. Daniels announced details of his planned spending reductions for K-12 education.  The total spending reduction would be $297 million from the 2010 school formula.

In terms of total spending, the reductions equate to a 3.5 percent reduction, even though the governor continues to say three percent, from 2009 total state funding or a 4.5 percent reduction from the total 2010 school formula allocations. 

In order to get $297 million in savings from the 2010 school formula, each school district's 2010 allocation will be reduced by 4.5 percent. Every school district in the state will receive the same percentage reduction. 

Keep in mind, the percentage reduction is taken from the amount that each individual school was set to receive under the 2010 formula passed in the budget bill (adjusted for actual student counts). 

The percentage reduction is not based on the amount each school received from the state in 2009.  When the post-cut allocations to each school district are added up statewide, the total 2010 allocation will be 3.5 percent less than the actual 2009 statewide allocation. 

The 3.5 percent figure-which has been widely reported in the media and has caused some confusion to schools-only applies to the difference in total funding from 2009 to 2010 and not to the reductions to individual schools.  

In addition, schools in Hancock County didn't receive funding this year for two school projects that were approved for prior to the cuts. I plan to work with the governor to see what we can do to get these projects funded.

All of our school corporations are doing an excellent job and I continue to applaud them for their hard work as we get through these difficult economic times.

As session gets closer to its conclusion, 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.

As always, please contact me with any questions, comments, or concerns. I always enjoy speaking with constituents to get a better understanding of any concerns you may have.