Late legislative surprises: Outsourcing custodians, tax breaks for home schoolers

Nearly a year ago, the Monroe County Community School Corp. made and then dropped plans to outsource custodial services. School officials thought – mistakenly, it turned out – they could pay for contracted cleaning services from the capital projects fund, thus leaving more of the general fund to spend on instruction.

If they had waited a year, they may have gotten away with it. A little-noticed amendment to Senate Bill 575 lets Indiana school corporations pay for custodial services from their capital projects funds – but only if they are outsourced to a private company.

Why? Who knows. School boards and administrators are always looking for more flexibility in how they spend school funds. But why provide the flexibility only if custodial services are outsourced? Why not let schools use their capital projects funds to pay the custodians that they employ?

Maybe the goal is to provide an incentive for outsourcing. It could provide a windfall for companies that stand to win contracts for custodial services – such as Sodexo, which will be paid $7 million over three years by Fort Wayne Community Schools. Or maybe it’s just a reflexive Republican slap at the public employee unions that, in some communities, represent school custodians and service workers.

SB 575, the primary purpose of which is to limit collective bargaining for teachers, has been approved by the Senate and House and is headed to Gov. Mitch Daniels to be signed into law.

Tax deduction for home-school families breaks new ground

Another late legislative surprise is a provision, approved this week by the Senate, to grant a state income-tax deduction of up to $1,000 for parents who home-school their children.

As Vic Smith of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education reports, the deduction was added as an amendment to House Bill 1003, the school voucher bill. The deduction, which also applies to private-school expenses, will cost the state $3 million. The maximum tax break would be about $44.

“This is a small savings for home school and private school parents,” Smith writes, “but it is a ‘foot in the door’ to bigger deductions after the precedent is set.”

Once again, there has been little to no discussion about whether this is good public policy — or good fiscal policy at a time when the state is pinching pennies.

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4 thoughts on “Late legislative surprises: Outsourcing custodians, tax breaks for home schoolers

  1. To Experimental Mom: Maybe you should try being a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. Try working with your public schools to make them better rather than running away and choosing alternatives and expecting the taxpayers to foot the bill for your private choices.

  2. Hi Patricia,
    I believe that a positive step toward true education is for more families to choose not to use public schools. I think that the idea of offering a free and equal education to all is noble, but unfortunately the current system is not accomplishing that end. Since public schools receive funding based on the number of students enrolled, there is no incentive to look at structural, systemic change until fewer enrolled students= fewer dollars for failing schools.
    Far from tax payers footing the bill for private choices, choosing where the portion of your taxes that goes toward education is spent ensures that no one is coerced into supporting a system that does not offer real education to students. Those who choose not to participate in the public school system are not running away, they are making a proactive choice. Public schools exist to serve the public, not the other way around. If they are not doing their job we need not trust our children’s education and development to them.

    • Thanks for both of you for commenting. Not surprisingly, I side with Patricia on this. I really don’t see how anyone can call public education a failed system. At least 90 percent of public schools seem to me to be working pretty well. They may not work for every student — but then neither does any system, including private schools and home schooling. I like the fact that, because they’re public, I can exercise some influence to make them better, through voting and persuasion. When my tax dollars are diverted to private schools and home schoolers, it seems to me I have no say in on how they’re used.

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