Why making adequate yearly progress can be a big deal

The Bloomington Herald-Times asked this question in a recent editorial: “With a vast majority of the state’s school corporations able to make AYP year after year — 94 percent made it this year — how is it that Monroe County’s public school systems aren’t?”

One part of the answer is that it’s a lot harder for large, diverse school corporations to make AYP (adequate yearly progress) under the No Child Left Behind Act than for small, homogenous school districts. Why? Because bigger and more diverse corporations have more opportunities to fail.

And compared to most Indiana school districts, the Monroe County Community School Corp. is big and diverse. It ranks No. 21 in enrollment among nearly 300 public school districts in the state.

Monroe County’s other public school district, Richland-Bean Blossom, did in fact make AYP year after year, for five years in a row, before missing it this year. The MCCSC made AYP this year after failing to do so for two previous years.

School corporations, in order to make AYP, must do two things: 1) meet required standards on state standardized tests for all students, or “overall AYP”; and 2) meet testing standards in at least one grade span – elementary, middle or high school – for each subgroup of students, such as special-needs students, minorities and those from low-income families.

But here’s the catch. Continue reading

Indiana announces Education Jobs Fund allocations

The Monroe County Community School Corp. will get almost $2 million in federal funds from the Education Jobs Fund program approved by Congress this month.

According to information posted by the Indiana Department of Education, the MCCSC’s allocation is $1,965,296. Richland-Bean Blossom Community Schools will get $508,224. The Bloomington Project School, a public charter school, will get $37,326.

While school officials are welcoming the money, it comes too late to reverse the job and program cuts that the MCCSC and many other districts made this year.

Gov. Mitch Daniels submitted Indiana’s application for $207 million in federal money on Friday, well ahead of the Sept. 9 deadline, Department of Education CFO Lance Rhodes said in a memo. State officials expect that school districts can start receiving their share of the money in November.

Schools will have until Sept. 30, 2012 to spend the funds. According to federal guidelines, they can be used to pay salaries and benefits for teachers and “other employees who provide school-level educational and related services,” including principals and assistant principals, instructional aides, school nurses, custodians and cafeteria workers. The money can’t be used for general administrative expenses, such as central office and school board operations.

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, in a letter Friday, urged superintendents Continue reading

Monroe County: land of low (school) taxes

Here’s something to keep in mind with the approach of a November tax referendum to support the Monroe County Community School Corp.: Even if we pass the referendum, the MCCSC property-tax rate will still be well below the state average for schools.

Rates for 2010 for most local taxing units in Indiana are available in a report from the Department of Local Government Finance. It says that the average property-tax rate for Indiana school districts is $1.02 per $100 assessed property value. The MCCSC rate is 57 cents per $100 assessed value.

The referendum would give the school board the authority to increase the rate by as much as 14 cents. If nothing else changed, that would make the MCCSC property-tax rate 71 cents per $100 assessed value – still 30 percent lower than the state average.

It’s important to remember, of course, that school taxes aren’t the only property taxes we pay. There are additional property-tax rates for city, county and township government, public libraries, solid waste districts, etc.

It’s also noteworthy that, since the 2008 Indiana “property tax reform” legislation took effect, our property taxes don’t support the school general fund, Continue reading