State officials boasted last month that Indiana was doing what few states have managed to do in these tough times: increasing funding for public schools.
But the claim probably rings hollow for students and parents in Gary Public Schools, where funding has been cut by 30 percent over two years. Or in rural districts such as White River Valley in southwestern Indiana’s Greene County, where the two-year funding cut is 16 percent.
Gov. Mitch Daniels and his fellow Republicans who control the House and Senate decided in April that Indiana could afford to add $150 million for schools to the two-year state budget. About half was added to the school funding formula and the rest was set aside for full-day kindergarten and teacher merit pay.
But remember that Daniels cut school funding by $327 million in December 2009. So Indiana public schools, on the whole, remain well behind where they were 2½ years ago. And that doesn’t count the money that will bleed away to new charter schools and voucher-funded private schools.
Furthermore, as Scott Elliott reported in Monday’s Indianapolis Star, the legislature also rewrote the school funding formula to favor fast-growing and wealthy suburban districts, which tend to be represented by Republicans, and to hurt districts with shrinking enrollment – especially high-poverty districts like Gary, where the politics are overwhelmingly Democratic.
“Put simply, Indiana’s new school-funding formula will cut aid to schools where the poorest children live and boost funds for schools in the state’s wealthiest neighborhoods,” Elliott wrote.