Did you know that school funding is tied to the student in Indiana? Most folks—including educators—don’t. It’s top-level. It’s complex. There is even a portion of state education funding called complexity.
Simply put, in Indiana, each student is a backpack full of cash. The cash follows them to the school district they attend. There are added complexities (there’s that term again), but that is the heart of it. If you decide to enroll your child in a privately managed virtual school, like Connections Academy (Pearson) or Indiana Digital* (K12 Inc.), instead of sending them back to your neighborhood public school, then the state funding that went last year to your child’s public school goes instead to the virtual school. If you choose to enroll them in a private, out-of-state, out-of-pocket school, you get little to no assistance. If you decide to homeschool in the traditional sense, you get little to no assistance.
I get it. We’re in a pandemic. Some of us can NOT send our child back to school. (On the flip side, some of us MUST.)
However, if children do not return to their local public school, then the school district collects less funding than prior years from the state. Since the bulk of public school funding comes from state funds, the results of less state funding will be layoffs, larger class sizes, fewer support staff, fewer field trips (when we’re out of the pandemic), fewer extracurriculars and specials, etc.
This hurts children. Most of whom thrive better in smaller classes where teachers can devote more one-on-one time with them.
This hurts the future of communities.
This hurts low-income children and low-income communities the most.
Stuart Greene, a school board member in South Bend, explains how it can truly hurt in this article.
…this nationwide trend of whether students leaving their public schools for [alternate schooling] could have a clear consequence.
To help protect districts from large financial losses, Senator Eddie Melton and other legislators have stressed that state funding for Indiana’s schools for the 2020–21 year should be based on the last student count (ADM, average daily membership) before the pandemic, which was in February 2020. In addition, he and others believe that the schools must also be financially supported by emergency federal funding as educating children during a pandemic will not cost less. In fact, it will cost much more.
Still, some of us can NOT send our children back to school. I get it. But please be patient. Chances are your school district may offer an online option. Choosing that online option affords your child more local resources than an online option that is not local.
What can I do?
* Indiana Digital is classified as a traditional public school, but it is a virtual school that serves students across the state much like a virtual charter school.