February 27, 2017

House Passes Budget With Modest K-12 Funding Increase

Article origination IPBS-RJC
A debate in the Indiana House during the 2014 legislative session. - Hawthorn M./Flickr

A debate in the Indiana House during the 2014 legislative session.

Hawthorn M./Flickr


The two-year House Republican budget was approved Monday despite criticism from Democrats that the education funding lacks transparency and will hurt rural schools.

Under the plan, K-12 education funding would be increased by 1.1 percent in the first year, and 1.7 percent in the second year, or a total of $273 million. That’s about $7 million less than Gov. Eric Holcomb had sought.

Crawfordsville Republican Rep. Tim Brown, chairman of the budget-making Ways and Means Committee, said the budget is a honest assessment of the state’s fiscal outlook. K-12 spending, he said, is a top priority as it makes up more than half of the state’s proposed $31.7 billion budget

The bill includes an additional $10 million to the state’s On My Way Pre-K pilot program and increases the per student severe disabilities grant by 2 percent each of the next two years.

It also eliminates the controversial $40 million teacher bonus program

Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis) criticized the plan, saying all schools should receive more money. Instead, the budget leaves some 200 schools with a less than 1 percent funding increase next year.

“We really wanted to see common ground when it comes to the state budget,” Porter says. “A budget that I think we all could live with. One without winners or losers.”

Following Porter to denounce the bill was Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis). Both made failed attempts last week to amend the budget.

DeLaney said rural schools would be hit the hardest by the budget. Of the 25 largest reductions in funding, 22 are rural, such as Attica Consolidated Schools. The budget calls for a 9.7 percent cut in tuition support at the district over the next two years

But Brown, says he doesn’t see a problem that some corporations will see cuts.

“I am agnostic to corporations,” he says, adding that school districts of all sizes can fail students and help them succeed.

Students will leave schools to find better fits, he suggested, and that the money would follow.

“I am looking at children,” he says. “And when the children – the per child funding – goes up, every child is counted.

Porter also called for funding streams of traditional schools, charter schools and private school vouchers to be separated.

Brown countered that charters and schools in the Choice Program already face much tougher accountability than traditional schools.

The budget passed on a 68-29 vote. It now heads to the Senate where it can face changes. April 29 is the last day for legislation to be passed by both chambers before it is sent to the governor for final approval.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.

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