Schools face serious budget issues

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lawmakers often say education is top priority when it comes to creating the state's budget.

Those claims may soon be tested.

Legislators have a challenge on their hands in the legislative session beginning in January. They will attempt to come up with an education-friendly, balanced two-year budget despite the slumping economy.

"The big challenge," says State Rep. Nancy Michael (D-Greencastle), "will be getting schools the money that was approved to them."

School districts across Indiana are facing increased costs for salaries, health insurance and day-to-day operations. They are worried flat or declining state tax revenues could lead to consequences such as teacher layoffs and larger class sizes.

"If we have to make cuts, we have to make them," said Greencastle Community School Corp. Superintendent Bob Green. "I don't know what else to do. We will protect the classroom instruction as much as possible."

Revenue growth in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, which began July 1, is flat. The state government was bracing itself for the Dec. 11 revenue forecast, fearing money coming in will remain stagnant or worse -- decline.

They can cut spending in some areas and give increases to priorities such as education. They can give no increases to education and leave school districts the challenge of figuring out how to cope with rising costs or they can dip into the state's rainy day fund and hope the economy gets better.

There are no good answers, but lawmakers have until April 29 to decide who gets what, which means setting some serious priorities.

Gov. Mitch Daniels has proclaimed no tax increase.

He has also said no to budgetary gimmicks such as delaying payments to schools or raiding the pension funds and wants lawmakers to keep their hands off the rainy day fund.

Although Indiana has $1.4 billion in that fund, Daniels has said, "our objective will be to preserve the reserves we have."

House Speaker Pat Bauer (D-South Bend), frankly stated, "This is a rainy day."

School districts all over Indiana are trying to avoid being blindsided when legislation passes the final budget.

"It is prudent for Indiana schools to make plans," South Putnam Superintendent Bruce Bernhardt told school board members during the December meeting.

Unfortunately, other states are facing an economic hurricane and have been implementing the painful cuts Indiana is trying to avoid.

The difference between Indiana and other states is Indiana has simply spent less money in the past four years.

Local school districts are still concerned about the unknown consequences coming in April.

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  • Mitch Daniels is already recommending that schools with under 2000 students consolidate within their counties. How about Putnam county lead the way and do just tha. In my opinion the schools have been run like the big corporations, top heavy over paid management making bad decisions.

    -- Posted by commonsense55 on Thu, Dec 18, 2008, at 4:26 AM
  • That would be the smart thing to do. Cut some Fat. The problem is certain people would lose their power and they don't like that. Why is it that the corporation with the smallest population of students has the most schools? Poor planning and vision on the part of the school board.

    -- Posted by letmegetbacktoya on Thu, Dec 18, 2008, at 6:54 AM
  • Are we talking true consolidation here or just a merger of top management? If we consolidate that would mean no more North, South, Greencastle, Cloverdale - just Putnam County HS. One everything - sports teams, bands, thespians, etc. It could also mean that everyone gets to help pay for the decisions (good and bad) that have been made by school boards across the county. I for one am not very excited about my taxes going up to fund building projects I had no voice in. And, I don't know about anyone else, but I have not attended School Board meetings and given input on decisions being made. It's easy to criticize if we don't know the facts.

    -- Posted by hoosierpete on Thu, Dec 18, 2008, at 7:08 AM
  • Consolidation baby. 1 Superintendent with 1 or 2 assistants and a couple of secretaries should be enough to do this job and save over a hundred thousand dollars a year. Any ideas on how many power hungry board members we need?

    -- Posted by mad-mom on Thu, Dec 18, 2008, at 7:51 AM
  • *

    Seriously, notagain, your rhetoric makes no sense. You say to cut these ridiculous teachers' salaries and put it toward the kids who need to get educated. How do you propose this be accomplished? By firing good teachers who necessarily make more money than bad ones and giving kids a cash rebate check for the education you just shorted them?

    Good teachers are the best expense a school can have. State-of-the-art athletic facilities, digital overhead projectors, etc. are what should be cut out, not teachers. Except art and music teachers. If you pay an art or music teacher anything, you have overpaid them. See if we can get them to do it for nothing like a real artist.

    -- Posted by tackleberry65 on Thu, Dec 18, 2008, at 8:26 AM
  • Teachers are underpaid, period. Have any of you ever spent anytime watching a teacher spend 80 hours per week prepping for a class? And the new stipulations they are under by the state make it very difficult to acheive licensure status. They now have to teach for 2 years before they can even apply for a permanent license in the state of Indiana, and must submit a portfolio that, from what I understand, is rather lengthy and intriquite. Teachers may enjoy summers off, but they put in 60+hour week the rest of the year. I have several friends that are new teachers, and on Saturdays and Sundays they are in their classroom, getting ready for the week ahead, just trying to keep their head above water while balancing their academic and adminsitrative duties. They deserve every penny and even more so. I can't speak for management or administration, so I will refrain from assuming about their duties.

    -- Posted by MsBehaving on Thu, Dec 18, 2008, at 8:49 AM
  • If the county consolidates, the major changes would only affect administration. Look at Vigo County. Terre Haute North, South, and West Vigo have tremendous rivalries, and plenty of money. If the county consolidates, that will mean more $$$$ for the schools.

    -- Posted by steelnovice on Thu, Dec 18, 2008, at 12:44 PM
  • Please respect all teachers no matter what they teach. I have a child that is in an art class right now at greencastle high school he will take this on with him to college. and Mrs. Johnson has helped my child understand there is so much to do in the art field.

    -- Posted by zrw0141 on Thu, Dec 18, 2008, at 7:11 PM
  • No doubt - there are some great, dedicated teachers who are grossly underpaid. The opposite is true as well - those 'teachers' are actually overpaid babysitters. The pay scale needs to be adjusted based on the dedication and track record of the teacher and not tenure.

    -- Posted by Scripted Spontaneity on Thu, Dec 18, 2008, at 9:41 PM
  • To Scripted Spontaneity, You are right on . Could not agree more.

    -- Posted by blonde bombshell on Thu, Dec 18, 2008, at 10:20 PM
  • to steelnovice

    They have more money because of the industries in Vigo county. Putnam County schools will never have a surplus of money because we lack all the businesses they have.

    -- Posted by teach4ever on Fri, Dec 19, 2008, at 6:00 AM
  • Ah yes, Mitch cutting taxes without worrying about where to make up the fiscal shortfall. Add in the fact that it seems like they don't really care if OUR kids get a good education, and you have some more typical Republican elitist behavior. Go figure.

    -- Posted by reeltime on Mon, Dec 22, 2008, at 6:47 AM
  • And we will soon be seeing the switch to meritocracy pay for teachers. The outdated seniority system does not work and never has worked. To the detriment of our children.

    That anyone would dispute it tells you just how good a teacher they aren't.

    -- Posted by reeltime on Mon, Dec 22, 2008, at 6:52 AM
  • I know this board is over two months old but reading through it I found this excerpt from 'tackleberry' (see below). I am bothered by the statement that "music teacher's are overpaid", yet there is no apparent logic to the claim. Sure, you can argue that music programs should be cut from schools but to judge a music teacher as unworthy of being paid seems far-fetched. What most people don't realize is that music teachers spend double the amount of work and time of the many so-called "regular" teachers. And that's not to say that other teachers don't do hard work; music teachers tend to work harder. I wonder why that is? Many music and art teachers have higher standards for practice compared to other areas of academia and many music/art educators have more schooling. Of course, I have made my own opinion here but at least its grounded.

    "Good teachers are the best expense a school can have. State-of-the-art athletic facilities, digital overhead projectors, etc. are what should be cut out, not teachers. Except art and music teachers. If you pay an art or music teacher anything, you have overpaid them. See if we can get them to do it for nothing like a real artist.

    -- Posted by tackleberry65 on Thu, Dec 18, 2008, at 8:26 AM"

    -- Posted by aMAIZEnBLUE on Tue, Feb 24, 2009, at 8:55 AM
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