Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Duneland teachers travel to Statehouse to lobby for public school funding

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House Bill 1367 might not come close to offsetting the state funding cuts to schools, but Duneland teachers and administrators are nonetheless supporting the legislation for the flexibility it offers to schools.

On Tuesday, 11 Duneland teachers traveled to the Indiana Statehouse as part of the Indiana State Teachers Association legislative lobbying day. About 250 teachers statewide joined in the effort.

Public schools throughout Indiana are facing funding cuts of nearly $300 million in state tuition support. The funding affects the school general funds, which pay for staff and other operating costs.

While the teachers were at the Indiana House, they saw H.B. 1367 pass along party lines, with 51 Democrats voting yes and 48 Republicans voting no. Authored by State Rep. Gregory Porter, D-Indianapolis, the bill would allow school corporations to use up to 5 percent of their Capital Projects Fund for operating costs. A school CPF is funded by local property taxes and is largely limited to capital expenses, such as new school roofs or parking lot repairs. The bill would free up how the CPFs could be used.

DTA Co-President Michele Bartels said it appears that H.B. 1367 is the best bill pending this session that deals with school finances.

“This gives (schools) more options without the state having to come up with more funding,” she said.

She noted that the bill would not increase funding for schools, but rather allow schools to transfer funds out of an existing account in order to pay for salaries or other operating expenses.

Local property taxes used to help fund school operating costs, but beginning last year, the state assumed these costs.

Duneland School Superintendent Dirk Baer said he also supports the bill, but noted that it isn’t entirely a solution to school funding problems -- especially since the Capital Projects Fund might not have money to spare.

In the case of Duneland, Baer said the school corporation will have to cut about $1.6 million from its advertised CPF for 2010. He said Duneland fully expected a cut, though the amount was higher than anticipated.

Still, he said H.B. 1367 “certainly will be helpful” and that it gives local school corporations flexibility.

Bartels said teachers have been contacting lawmakers urging relief for schools, and that she feels the phone calls and emails have been helpful. In the case of H.B. 1367, Bartels said she is hopeful that some Republicans who initially voted no will change their vote when and if the bill comes up again. The bill now moves to the Senate, and if the bill passes there with changes, the differences would be reconciled and the bill would come back for a vote in both chambers.

The Duneland teachers who attended the legislative lobbying day were Marie Englehart of Brummitt, Susan Calkusic of Jackson Elementary, Colin May of Liberty Elementary, Connie Hamilton and Martha Kearney of Yost, Cheryl Muller and Bill Gustin of Westchester Intermediate, Jodi Nix of Chesterton Middle, and Bartels, Kirsten Renehan and Jane Holmgren of Chesterton High School.

The teachers met with State Senators Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, Jim Arnold, D-Michigan City, and State Representatives Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, and Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City.

Bartels said Duneland teachers were also pleased to see that H.B. 1134 passed. The bill, also authored by Porter, would block a current state effort to base teacher evaluations on student scores.



Posted 2/5/2010




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