Letter to the Editor

Education official takes closer look at local school funding

Thursday, May 18, 2017

To the Editor:

In regard to the 2017 legislative session, once again, some schools will receive more funding and some less. In other words, we will have some winners and some losers. State Representative Jim Baird should only be concerned that the schools in his district are winners. Would you not agree? Total school funding for the school districts in HD 44 for the years of 2016 and 2017 can be seen in Figure 1.

As you can see, the 2.3% increase of 2016 and 2017 did NOT occur for most of the school corporations in District 44. Representative Baird voted for a budget that did NOT provide well for the school corporations in his district. Is he representing his constituents?

In addition, to make matters worse for District 44, the budget that Baird voted for supported the expansion of charter schools and private school vouchers in OTHER areas, where he does NOT represent constituents. A new charter school grant program of $500 per student was created for certain charters. This ended up costing the state $10 million EACH of the two years of 2016 and 2017. This was supported by Baird. A new charter school loan program of $50 million was created to provide low-interest loans (lower than rates for traditional public schools) from the State’s Common School Fund. This was also supported by Baird.

According to the Indiana Department of Education, three school districts in District 44 have been directly impacted by public tax dollars leaving the public schools for private voucher schools, as shown in Figure 2.

As you can see, the outlook for most schools in House District 44 creates more losers than winners in 2018 and 2019 (Figure 3).

Representative Baird voted to continue performance funding for highly effective and effective teachers. These ratings are largely determined by student standardized test scores. Funding for Fiscal Year 2016 remained at the $30 million level. Since ISTEP test results were delayed, it was unclear when teachers would see those funds. Funding for 2017 increased to $40 million statewide. However, Indiana’s data on teacher salary increases remained dismal. Indiana showed the second WORST decline in teacher salaries in the nation. As for the “Teacher Tax Credit”, teachers have continued to spend much more than $100 out of their own pockets on classroom supplies for their students for years.

In addition, new legislation in 2017 has caused private school voucher programs to from $146 million to $156 million to $167 million from 2017 to 2019. There is an investment of New Charter Schools over the biennium of another $35 million. Tax Credits to subsidize private school tuition will go from $9.5 million to $12.5 million to $14 million from 2017 to 2019.

The Pre-K expansion bill expands Pre-K from 5 counties to 20 with funding of $22 million per year. However, this funding provides for a pathway to private school K-12 vouchers and includes a new online virtual Pre-K program with funding of up to $1 million per year, at the expense of our public schools. Do we really want our four-year-old Pre-K students to sacrifice socialization by giving them instruction online?

House Enrolled Act 1382 enables 90% of charter school teachers to be licensed under “any license or permit”, even a substitute license, requiring only a high school diploma. The other 10% of charter school teachers have no licensure requirements!

House Enrolled Act 1384 removes accountability for voucher schools by allowing them to have a D or F letter grade and receive a waiver from the Indiana State Board of Education to continue to receive vouchers. Prior to passing this bill, a private school only had 2 consecutive years as a D or F school before it would lose its right to receive new vouchers. Also allowed is the ability of the State Board of Education to accredit new private schools in their first year of operation, so that they can enter the state’s voucher program right away, before any track record of performance is evidenced.

What Representative Baird calls “innovation” and votes for is harming our public schools. Enough is enough, Representative Baird. The constituents of House District 44 deserve much better.


Kimberly A. Fidler