To the editor:
Our local state representative has continually publicized the same rhetoric for months — “Indiana dedicates a majority of its state budget, over half (or 52 percent), and more than 40 percent of our property tax dollars to public education.
Just this past session, we added an additional $470 million to public education … with this investment, only 58 percent of Hoosier tax dollars make it into the classroom.”
I want to address these statistics which are a bit deceptive and truly do not reveal all the facts.
Depending on which analysis one looks at, we can all agree that the foundation level of spending per pupil has dramatically changed over the years.
In 2004-05, the average base spending per pupil in an average sized school district was at $6,167. In 2009, the spending changed dramatically after the state took more control over local spending on education and implemented a cap per pupil. The base level was set on average at $4,825. Since then, our state has slowly crept back upwards only to put our schools back on the level of where we were more than a decade ago.
This incredible outpouring of financial backing going into education is deceiving. Just look at the educational spending state-by-state. According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau which was last updated in June 2015, Indiana ranks in the lower half at 31st in our nation on education spending per pupil.
My concern continues to be what is best for the Hoosier child. As a trustee, I have seen the purse strings tightened to the most constricted level I have ever witnessed. After such a constraint on educational funding, we are receiving more this year, but it still pales in comparison to what schools were receiving, especially in light of inflation.
Rep. Jim Lucas is quick to point out “only 58 percent of Hoosier tax dollars make it into the classroom.” Presently, legislation requires more administrative work from a school, placing more financial demands on the school. There’s no question why we cannot place more funds into the classroom — our schools are now so wrapped up with an outrageous amount of data collecting and reporting requiring additional staffing to cover those areas. Many of our corporations cannot keep up on this limited funding.
School corporations across the state are in a financial bind — not because of lack of sound financial spending, but because of what was mandated over the years to take away local control and put it in the hands of politicians, some who have no idea how or what a school needs to maintain an academic environment for our children. The local school boards’ hands are tied.
It is time to take Indianapolis out of educational spending and place it back in the hands of the local schools. Let our community have more of a say in what happens to our local corporations. This is why they elect local school board trustees in the first place.
Franke is running for the Republican nomination for the state House District 69.