Reports show Indiana school funding lagging

Recent reports on state education funding suggest Indiana is slipping when it comes to providing fair and adequate support for public schools.

Exhibit A, and the most discouraging example, is an annual report by researchers at Rutgers University and the Education Law Center. The report, “Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card,” evaluates states on four measures of how they fund schools.

Indiana gets a C in the report for “funding distribution,” a measure of whether states provide additional funding for high-poverty school districts. That’s unfortunate, because Indiana used to consistently get A’s in the category. It used to do a better job of sending more money to the neediest districts.

But lawmakers have rewritten the school funding formula so affluent districts get about as much money as poor districts get. (The report uses data from 2015. Indiana’s funding hasn’t grown fairer since then and may have gotten worse).

Indiana gets an F in the report for “funding effort,” a measure of how much it spends on education compared to what it could afford to spend based on state gross domestic product and average personal income. It used to get a C for effort but the grade dropped to F in 2017.

Indiana is in the middle of the pack on two other measures: per-pupil spending, where it ranks 20th; and broad-based participation in public schools, 29th.

Another report, “Funding Gaps 2018” from the Education Trust, finds that states and localities are spending more on school districts that serve white and low-poverty communities than on districts that serve more poor students and students of color.

In Indiana, the report says, high-poverty districts receive slightly more money than low-poverty districts. But adjusted for the greater need of poor students, Indiana falls short of adequately funding high-poverty districts. (Again, the data are from 2015, so current figures are probably worse).

Finally, “School Funding: Do Poor Kids Get Their Fair Share?” released last year by the Urban Institute, examines how likely it is that poor children attend school in districts that receive adequate funding. It finds that, in nearly half the states, students from low-income families get less state and local school funding than their nonpoor counterparts. In Indiana, funding is roughly equal for poor and nonpoor.

You can read summaries of all three reports, written from a national perspective, in Chalkbeat.


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