Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Daniels backs $150M boost for schools

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A more optimistic state revenue forecast means an additional $150 million can go to Indiana’s public schools, partially restoring funding cuts made over the past two years, Gov. Mitch Daniels said Friday.

Daniels said he and legislative leaders have agreed that about a quarter of that money will go toward ensuring full-day kindergarten is provided in all school districts. About 75 percent of districts now offer full-day kindergarten classes.

After bringing the program to three-quarters of school districts over the past four years, Daniels said he was “eager to finish the job.”

He said any additional tax revenue will be kept in the state’s reserve.

“This is prudent and leaves a lot of room for error,” Daniels said.

The State Budget Committee expected to receive the updated revenue forecast later Friday. Legislators will use the forecast to make final decisions on the two-year spending plan that the General Assembly is expected to approve by the end of April.

Previous budget plans would have kept overall K-12 education funding at current levels after cuts of about $450 million, or about 3 percent, ordered by Daniels over the past two years.

Daniels said $10 million to $12 million of the additional money would go toward a teacher merit pay program that is nearing approval in the Legislature.

That would leave about $100 million to be distributed among the state’s school districts over the next two years.

The spending plan approved by the House last month allocates about $6.25 billion a year in operating money for public schools — nearly half of the state budget. The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled on Monday to vote on a revised budget plan.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, joined Daniels at Friday’s news conference, with both saying the plan to direct additional money to schools would have wide support among legislators.

“Early childhood education is a critical component for our young people,” Long said. “Full-day K is a very important part of that.”


Posted 4/15/2011





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