[r75] BLT: Focusing our tax dollars on our children (3/11/2011)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Start Date: 3/11/2011 All Day
End Date: 3/11/2011

Focusing our tax dollars on our children

It seems that there has been much misinformation and many questions regarding the proposed change in the way education is funded in the state. To better address this I would like to explain the current and proposed school funding formulas this week.

The new spending formula we have proposed would simplify the current school funding formula by eliminating variables such as the de-ghoster, restoration grants, and small school grants that allowed some school districts to receive more than their fair share of funding at the expense of every other school district in the state. To better understand these changes, let me explain how the current formula works:

In the current school funding formula, several variables determine how much funding each school district receives. School districts are required every September to submit to the state the number of enrolled students for the school year. That number alone though doesn't determine how many students the school will receive funds for.

Under the de-ghoster process in the current funding formula, schools with a declining student population are allowed to count students who transferred to another school district within the last several years. For each student that leaves, the school is permitted to count the lost student as 2/3 of a student in year 1 and 1/3 of a student in year 2. This process is supposed to ease the loss of funding to a school district, but it comes at the expense of school districts with a stable or growing student population.

The new total enrollment number is then multiplied by a per-student funding level established in the Indiana General Assembly. This level is known as the foundation level, and it is proposed at $4,505 per student.

Now a school district has a foundation funding level, but that's not the end of the process in the current formula. Additional funding is given to school districts with a needier student population as determined by the school's complexity index. The complexity index is based on the percentage of students in a district who receive free or reduced lunches. Half of that percentage is multiplied by the foundation level to determine the additional funding a school can receive. The process of determining the foundation level and adding the complexity index determine the bulk of education funding.

However, small districts can receive extra funding per students in order to make their funding less disproportional to larger districts, despite having disproportional enrollment. Restoration grants provide additional funds for school districts if their budgets are lower than the previous year to help ease the effects of declining enrollment, despite the fact that they are educating fewer students than other districts that receive the same amount of funding.

Once you finally get to the equal sign at the end of the funding formula, you have gone through a lot of variables and numbers. It's a formula and process we believe we can make easier, and more focused on the student.

Hamilton Southeastern and Franklin Township Schools are examples of how the de-ghoster unfairly funds some districts. In recent years, enrollment in these two districts has increased dramatically. However, because of the de-ghoster, these two districts experienced a delay in receiving funding for the increased number of students because that money must still be paid to the school districts that those children transferred from for two years. As a result, those districts ran into major financial trouble as they did not have the finances available to them to make up for the increase in enrollment. A similar example is that schools in Gary receive an average of $9,600 per student, despite dramatically declining enrollment, and Warrick County Schools are only receiving $5,900 per student while their enrollment numbers are increasing.

Why should where a child goes to school determine how much is invested in their education? And why should we give schools money for students they don't have? Instead of continuing to fund districts that are losing and educating fewer students, the money needs to follow those students to their new districts. This process will allow every school in the state to receive adequate and fair funding for the actual amount of students they have enrolled and are educating.

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Rep. Ron Bacon (R-Chandler)