‘Cash for test scores’ scheme would favor the usual suspects

Indiana Sen. Brandt Hershman’s plan to reward school districts for high test scores looks a lot like a scheme to steal from the poor and give to the rich — or, more accurately, to steal a little from almost everyone and give it to the rich.

Hershman, a Republican who represents a rural district near Lafayette, is proposing to give extra money to public school corporations at which more than 85 percent of students pass both the math and English ISTEP-Plus exams. The bonus would be $500 for each student who passes.

That’s arguably “giving to the rich” because, predictably, the school districts that would qualify are districts that serve few poor students. Most are suburban districts; many are located in the “doughnut counties” that surround Indianapolis.

Based on last year’s test scores, 15 school corporations would get the money. At only a couple of them do more than a quarter of students come from families with incomes low enough to qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches. Statewide, nearly half of all students qualify for lunch subsidies.

It’s estimated the program would cost $17 million a year. The biggest chunk would likely to go Carmel-Clay schools, one of the state’s wealthiest districts, where fewer than 10 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

Hershman doesn’t identify a funding source, saying only that, if the economy improves, “there will be some new money available for K through 12,” Continue reading