Survey: Three-fourths of school districts cut jobs

Three-fourths of Indiana school districts eliminated jobs this year as a result of reductions in state education funding, according to a survey by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University.

Of the districts that cut jobs, 88 percent eliminated teaching positions. Eighty-four percent eliminated non-certified staff, a category that includes service and maintenance employees and instructional assistants.

The online Survey on School Corporation Financial Management Issues was conducted between June 23 and July 23 by CEEP in partnership with the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents and the Indiana School Boards Association. Some 204 of Indiana’s 292 school superintendents answered the survey, a 70 percent response rate.

Terry Spradlin, CEEP’s associate director for education policy, presented the results Aug. 30 to the Indiana General Assembly’s Interim Study Committee on the School Funding Formula. The survey provides a snapshot of how Indiana schools are responding to the sluggish economy and, in particular, to Gov. Mitch Daniels’ decision in December 2009 to reduce school funding by $297 million this year.

More than half the districts said in the survey that they expect to cut jobs in 2011-12. The survey was conducted before Congress approved legislation that provides Indiana with $207 million between now and September 2012 to preserve education jobs. That money comes too late to prevent layoffs at the start of the 2010-11 school year.

Other findings include:

— Five of every six Indiana school districts are reducing spending from their general funds, with the average reduction 5 percent. Of those that made cuts, 74 percent reduced spending this year and 26 percent in 2009.

— At least 11 school districts are conducting ballot referenda this November to offset general-fund reductions through voter-approved tax increases. The average property-tax increase being sought is 17 cents per $100 assessed value. (The Monroe County Community School Corp. is one of the districts with a referendum; it’s asking for a 14.1-cent tax increase).

— Only 39 percent of school districts are taking advantage of a new state law that allows for the transfer of money from the capital projects fund to the general fund, which pays for employee salaries and benefits. Spradlin speculated that many districts have committed their capital projects funds to building needs and don’t have the flexibility to transfer money.

— Despite a push by some legislators to start school after Labor Day, there seems to be no real trend toward starting the school year later. Most schools started classes this year during the week of Aug. 9 or Aug. 16. The latest start date was Aug. 31.

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