INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Top Indiana Republicans touted “record investment” in school spending and
big teacher pay raises by some school districts in defending themselves as
thousands of teachers turned out for a Statehouse rally this past week
calling for a bigger boost in education funding.
however, don’t give the full context of Indiana’s complicated method for
distributing money for educating about 1.1 million students. And a common
argument from traditional public school supporters for cutting off money for
charter schools and private school vouchers has trouble as well.
A look at some of
“We’ve made record
investment in our public schools and I don’t just mean the most money I mean
the most money added,” Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said Tuesday.
“Adding three-quarters of a billion dollars to a $7 billion pie in the last
Bosma’s figures are
technically true but jumble the accounting and leave out key perspective.
Republicans say the
new state budget approved in April gave a “record” or “historic” boost to
schools by citing the additional dollar amount going to schools.
The budget gives a
projected $178 million more to K-12 education - traditional public schools,
charter schools and private school vouchers - this school year and an
additional $183 million increase next year. Adding the first year total
twice, the second year funding once and a one-time $150 million teacher
pension pay-down gets roughly to Bosma’s “three-quarters of a billion
spending plan increases base funding for traditional schools funding by
about 2% each year, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan
Legislative Services Agency. Charter schools received 10% more money and
private school voucher funding jumped 9% for this year.
Just about any
increase in school funding was bound to set a record because of inflation
and the spending growth from previous years, said Purdue University
economist Larry DeBoer, who has studied Indiana tax policy for about 30
“The increase, in
total, actually was bigger this time than it’s been, but bigger this time
than it’s been is just a tad above inflation,” DeBoer said.
In fact, the
state’s per-student funding declined by about $300, or 4%, since 2009 to
$6,863 in 2017 when adjusted for inflation, according to Indiana
University’s Center for Evaluation & Education Policy.
Eric Holcomb’s reelection campaign sent an email touting progress in schools
raising teacher pay that cited new teacher contracts in 14 of the state’s
nearly 300 school districts.
highlighted the Muncie district giving raises for the first time in eight
years, increasing starting salaries to $36,500, along with the Richmond
schools giving all teachers a $3,000 raise, Fort Wayne schools granting 2.5%
raises and Marion County’s Franklin Township district giving 5.3% boosts.
praised the Indianapolis Public Schools for pay raises up to $9,300 in the
“biggest salary increase in school history.” The Noblesville district is
credited with the “largest pay increase in 40 years” for average 9.75
percent raises this year.
didn’t mention that voters in those two districts had approved referendums
allowing increased property taxes specifically earmarked for increased
“Holcomb had about
as much to do with teacher pay raises at IPS as he did with the moon
landing,” Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said.
groups estimated this year that a 9% funding increase was needed to boost
average teacher pay of about $50,000 a year to the midpoint of Indiana’s
neighboring states, while GOP state schools Superintendent Jennifer
McCormick cited a study showing Indiana as the state with the lowest teacher
salary increases since 2002.
“Over 90% of all
our Hoosier students attend public schools. We need our lawmakers to
increase the funding for public schools and stop funding charters and
vouchers,” American Federation of Teachers Indiana President GlenEva Dunham
said during Tuesday’s “Red for Ed” Statehouse rally.
Many teachers argue
that continued growth of the state’s charter school and private school
voucher programs over the past decade have siphoned off money that could
help traditional schools.
The state budget
projects spending about $300 million this year on charter schools, which are
public schools but generally operate independent of local school districts.
About $175 million is going to the voucher program helping families pay
tuition at religious or other private schools.
Supporters of those
programs maintain that if they were eliminated, many, if not most, of the
some 85,000 students participating would be enrolled in traditional public
schools. So those schools would face hiring more teachers and support staff,
leaving not much left for pay raises or new programs.
point of Republicans is that 50.2% of the state budget now goes to K-12
“We’re third in the
nation behind Kansas and Vermont for the percentage of state expenditures
that goes exclusively for K-12 education,” Bosma said in a speech from the
House rostrum Tuesday.
That is completely
by choice in how the state decides to fund its schools. Indiana is somewhat
unique in that it is one of only six states that don’t include local
property taxes in the school funding formula, according to the national
school funding advocacy group EdBuild.
Indiana relied on
mix of state and local funding for schools until 2009 when Republican Gov.
Mitch Daniels pushed a plan for capping local property taxes and having the
state largely take over funding school operating budgets. That plan relied,
in part, on increasing the state sales tax by one percentage point to its
current 7% level, said DeBoer, the Purdue economist.
“The amount of
additional revenue going to the whole system from the state is not the sort
of extraordinary amount that would cause, or allow, great big new
contracts,” DeBoer said.