Hoosiers now know what the state budget will look like for the next two years. It boosts funding for education, but schools with declining enrollment will still lose money.
Lawmakers are increasing the base amount schools receive for each student they enroll by about $350 over the biennium.
But the state’s $539 million boost in tuition support won’t reach every school, because funding follows the student. Those dollars are also split between charter, voucher, and virtual charter schools – and the state estimates traditional public districts will receive about a 2 percent boost in funding each year, while charter and voucher schools receive a boost of up to 9 or 10 percent respectively.
Democrats, like Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis), pushed back on the deal, saying it still doesn’t include money for teacher raises.
“We’re still short. I don’t see it in there,” Porter says.
But one of the state’s lead budget writers, Rep. Todd Huston (R-Fishers) says school funding accounted for more than 70 percent of new money in the budget. And to do it, he says members had to compromise.
“Because we all had projects funds things that we like, things that we believe in, but we had to say look we said we’re going to make it a priority, we made it a priority and it’s clear,” Huston says.
The budget does add $7.5 million more to the state’s fund for highly effective teacher bonuses. It also includes $3 million of new money per year to train teachers in computer science and another $5 million for English language learners each year.
Other highlights include more funding for school safety grants and funding for a newly-created teacher residency pilot program. The plan to pay off some teacher pension debt for schools also made its way into the final plan. Lawmakers, and the governor, have said the money schools save from the payoff should go to teacher pay.
Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Ogden Dunes) says Republicans could have spent more on teacher pay, health care, pre-K education and water infrastructure, among other things.
“We do not need a surplus in excess of $2 billion,” Tallian says.
But Republican leaders, like House budget architect Rep. Todd Huston (R-Fishers), says the state’s reserves help ensure Indiana can survive an inevitable downturn in the economy.
“And I leave here proud of the efforts that we’ve done to meet and sustain the needs,” Huston says.
The measure passed largely along party lines. Only one Democrat in either chamber – Sen. David Niezgodski (D-South Bend) – voted for the budget.