Letter to the Editor

School funding should truly 'follow the child'

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

To the Editor:

I recently read with interest Rep. Michael's comments about her self ascribed biggest issue, education and funding.

Having been involved as a school board member at Greencastle Community Schools for 14 years, I would like to give my own perspective about funding schools in general and the effects of the State supported General Fund Grant "following the child."

At first glance the idea that all state-supported General Fund Grant monies should be maintained and distributed at last year's level for the coming year sounds compassionate and fair minded. Upon closer scrutiny the compassion fades into less accountability for district spending and more of the status quo for poor performance and failing schools.

This notion of maintaining level state funding for schools that are losing many students every year is trouble for taxpayers and districts that do perform well. The fact is that by maintaining the same amount of funding for those districts losing students means less funding for the rest of the districts that are maintaining or increasing enrollment numbers.

Perhaps smaller districts that have enrollments that lose then gain students but stay relatively steady over a few years time could make a case for some sort of level funding mechanism to maintain their budgets. But fully funding districts with consistently shrinking enrollments has gone on for years with very little consequence.

Instead of Rep. Michael comparing Carmel Schools gaining, while District 44 schools lose, the more appropriate example of how district funding discrepancies impact District 44 schools is the case against level funding for Indianapolis Public Schools and other metropolitan districts like it.

That district alone is projected to lose another 1,000 students next year after many years of similar enrollment losses. This equals about $6 million that doesn't "follow the child" to a different district ... in just one year.

That kind of mass exodus hasn't been seen since the parting of the Red Sea. There are a number of other large districts in the state that are losing alarming numbers of students as well, yet the Indiana House leadership insists on keeping the funding for those districts the same, regardless of their enrollment.

Those numbers add up to big money, very fast.

These large shifts of students away from one district into another should tell us something about the choices people want to make for their kids' sake. I can't blame the parents of those kids stuck in failing districts for wanting a better education and safe environment.

Let them out. Why keep throwing extra money into school districts that are collapsing from the vacuum of exiting students? Let the money flow to the districts students and their families want them to attend.

It's really their choice anyway.

Jack Berry