News and Tribune

Clark County

July 26, 2013

School funding: Money or nothing?

State reports more money going to districts, but administrators question estimates

(Continued)

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — A COUPLE TWEAKS

One of the factors that affects per-student funding in the state formula is a complexity index, which used to be calculated by the number of students in a district who received free and reduced lunch.

Now, that number is tied to students who receive free textbook assistance.

Grooms said the parents of students on free and reduced lunch don’t have to go through the same rigorous process of verification that they do for free textbooks.

He said since free textbook assistance can be audited, it could be a more accurate gauge of how much need is within a district.

“This will benefit some schools and possibly hurt some others, but it will be easily tracked and more fair,” Grooms said. “We’re going to go to a system that’s going to require some type of validation or proof that there is, in fact, need in your school corporation for extra funding based on the economic conditions of your student population.”

Dykiel said the move could cause families who qualify for free and reduced lunch to avoid applying if they don’t qualify for textbook assistance.

“I think you’re going to see a lot of people not qualify for free textbook assistance and the state’s trying to do that,” Dykiel said. “They probably wont apply for free lunch now because they know someone’s looking over their shoulder. Maybe that’s a good point, but some people really need the free lunch because they can’t afford it. I don’t want to hurt any child because they really need the lunch and the breakfast.”

The formula also includes full-day kindergarten funding, which was always sent to districts in a separate grant.

Though the subtraction of full-day kindergarten funds from the state projections doesn’t negate the additional funding, it does slightly exaggerate increases in per-student funding and underestimates decreases.

The four districts in Clark and Floyd counties have worked together on joint school board meetings for more than a year. Part of their initiatives include communicating with local legislators on equalizing funding across the state for schools.

A release about the funding changes from Grooms’ office said on average, districts across the state would see nearly $400 more per student than they did in 2011 when he took office.

Knott said while she thinks legislators have listened to them, she doesn’t think the current projections are quite the answer they’ve sought.

“It’s what politicians do,” Knott said. “I don’t think it’s accurate to say that schools are getting $400 per student, I don’t think that’s an accurate statement. Again, it doesn’t solve the equity issue because it’s based on enrollment on what you’re already getting. If you don’t increase the number of students you get or your foundation, you’re not going to get anything. There’s only a few districts that are going to get anything significant on this.”

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