[r55] COLUMN: Focusing on our local schools (11/7/2014)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Start Date: 11/7/2014 Start Time: 12:00 AM
End Date: 11/7/2014
Focusing on our local schools

I recently had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Jim Roberts, superintendent of the Batesville Community School Corporation to discuss Indiana’s education system. Meeting education leaders and listening to their concerns is the first step towards addressing the issues that are impacting our state’s education system. 

Improving the quality of education has always been a top priority for the House Republicans. In 2013, when the two-year budget passed, we made the largest investment in K-12 education in Indiana’s history. One year later, we created the first state-supported preschool pilot program. Building on that momentum, I look forward to improving the quality of education next session, which is one of our main agenda goals. 

As lawmakers, we are accountable to students, parents and teachers, and by continuing to place education first, we will increase that accountability and strengthen education in our state, which begins with funding. Currently, nearly two-thirds of Indiana’s budget is dedicated to funding both K-12 and higher education. 

There is a foundation amount that each school receives per student, which can be thought of as basically the minimum guarantee. After the foundation level is established, additional funding can be allocated based on several items including; how many low-income, special-education, career and technical education and honors diploma students each school has in attendance. Unfortunately, major disparity exists between the per student dollar amounts that some schools receive across the state. 

That is why we will work to lessen that gap, ensuring more fairness in funding. We will also look  at ways that we can raise the foundation level of education spending, which will benefit all schools. In order to accomplish this though, we must first wait until the December revenue forecast so that we can continue living within our means.

We will also review performance funding next session. It is a known business strategy to reward your top employees which then can incentivize other employees to perform at a higher level. We would like to use this model when reviewing our current formula. In the past, our bottom 10 performing school corporations received 30 percent more money than the top 10 performing schools. We want to make sure that our performance-based funding is the most equitable possible. 

Addressing some of these concerns will allow us to continue improving education in Indiana. I hope this information explains how education funding works and gives you a better idea of one of the items we plan to accomplish next year. 

I appreciate the time I had to meet with Dr. Jim Roberts and that he took the time to meet with me and express the concerns he had for our schools. I look forward to meeting with more of the schools in my district and hearing their feedback. I know that together we can improve the quality of education, not only in our community, but throughout the state. I can’t wait to be able to share your ideas and perspective at the Statehouse so that we are able to work together and move our state forward.

-30-

Rep. Ziemke (R-Batesville) represents portions of Rush, Fayette, Franklin, Ripley and Decatur counties.

Ziemke_11.7Column.docx