Indiana school districts stand to lose over $100 million in state funding this year because of reduced enrollment attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fall 2020 enrollment in traditional public schools declined by 17,300 students, according to data released last week by the Indiana Department of Education. Each of those students translates to over $6,200 in lost funding from the state.
It’s not yet clear what happened or where the students went. Some families may have opted to homeschool their children rather than send them to school during the pandemic. Some may have switched to private or charter schools.
A significant factor could be families with young children choosing to delay or skip kindergarten. Indiana does not require kindergarten attendance, and children are not required to start school until the academic year when they turn 7.
This is how lawmaking is supposed to work. It starts with a friendly talk with a constituent at the county fair and moves on to legislation given a positive reception in a Senate committee. If things go the way they should, it will end up with a new law that provides modest but important help for public schools.
Senate Bill 30 would require the Indiana Department of Education to report to school districts twice a year on the number of local students receiving tuition vouchers and the private schools they attend. Introduced by Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, it’s scheduled for consideration today by the Senate Education and Career Development Committee.
The idea was hatched last summer, when Koch ran into Laura Hammack, the newly appointed superintendent of the Brown County School Corp., at the school district’s popcorn booth at the Brown County Fair in Nashville.
“It was like 8,000 degrees outside and we were covered in popcorn grease,” Hammack recalled.
Koch asked about school issues, and Hammack said she was concerned the district was losing students and, as a result, losing state funding.
“The outgoing superintendent had shared that he expected us to be down about 40 students,” Hammack said. “That would have been a big hit, but in reality we were down 100 students last fall compared to the prior year. That generates a loss of just over a half million dollars to our general fund.”