There is no joy in Mudville over the funding for public schools in the final budget.
The budget was posted for review in the wee hours this morning and will be voted on tonight.
If you want to see the budget and the school funding formula for yourself, it is posted on the General Assembly website on the House Republican page.
Here are my sad conclusions after a quick read. No doubt given more time there could be more concerns.
If you want to share your opinions with legislators, please feel free, although there is no doubt that the budget will pass tonight, perhaps after midnight.
Tax credits for private school scholarships run by Scholarship Granting Organizations hit a bonanza!
Current funding in 2016-17 was $9.5 million.
Funding for next year 2017-18 has been raised to $12.5 million, up 31%.
Funding for every year starting in 2018-19 will be $14 million, a 12% raise about $12.5 million.
This adds up to a $7.5 million increase in the two-year budget. This is a large increase to promote private school tuition when most public school categorical funding has been absolutely frozen. Summer School funding, for example, has been stuck on $18.3 million for years. The private school proponents showed their influence once again.
Let's hope someone starts checking the SGO audits. These are largely unsupervised groups, and they are now getting more public money than Alternative Education ($6M) and the Senator Ford Technology Fund ($3M) combined. Under the law, the SGO can keep 10% for overhead and salaries. Do the math. They must be well paid.
The Senate budget's excellent effort to put a line item in the budget for Choice Scholarships has disappeared from the final budget.
Money for private school vouchers will again be taken from the same Tuition Support budget line item used for all K-12 schools. Transparency in line items has been requested for years and is still not part of the budget.
There is a helpful statement of cost projections for Choice Scholarships on the last page of the School Funding formula. It projects $156 million (a 7.2% increase) for the first year and $167 million (a 6.9% increase) for the second year in funding Choice Scholarships based on an estimate that voucher enrollment would increase 5.8% the first year and would increase 5.5% in the second year.
The final budget funded K-12 schools with $345 million new dollars in the two-year budget, a total of $13 million less than the Senate budget. The hope that a $200 million gain in the April revenue forecast would give K-12 an extra boost turned out to be a mirage.
The House budget (Feb.) raised K-12 funding by $77 M in the 1st year and by $273 M over two years. (Percentage increases: 1.1% in the 1st year and 1.7% in the 2nd year)
The Senate budget (March) raised K-12 by $117 M in the 1st year and by $358 M over two years. (Percentage increases: 1.7% in the 1st year and 1.7% in the 2nd year)
The final budget (April 21) raised K-12 by $113 M in the 1st year and by $345 M over two years. (Percentage increases: 1.6% in the 1st year and 1.7% in the 2nd year)
It is extremely disappointing that the Senate budget increase of $358 million was not maintained in the final budget, especially given the new revenue forecast.
There was no time for a full analysis of how school districts fared in the final funding formula, but the Senate budget is an indicator of the stress to school districts that will come with this budget since the final budget is close to the Senate budget. The Senate budget gave 144 districts either a negative percentage increase or less than a 1% increase, which is well below inflation.
These low increases mean hard times ahead for the resources available to many K-12 students in approximately half of the school districts in Indiana.
It is sad that Indiana leaders could not do better for their K-12 students. While the 1.6% and 1.7% increases are better than the 1.0% in FY 2013 and FY 2015, they are well below recent increases given in FY 2014 (2.0%), in FY 2016 (2.3%) and in the current year FY 2017 (2.3%).
Keep talking with your legislators about how you feel they are doing for public schools.
Thank you for your strong support of public education in Indiana!
Vic Smith firstname.lastname@example.org