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Education

House Republicans Seek More School Funding Than Gov's Proposal

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Judy Baxter
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https://www.flickr.com/photos/judybaxter/

House Republicans have vowed to give schools a bigger funding boost than what Governor Pence has proposed.

But they‘re still looking for the right balance between urban and suburban districts.

Republicans have worked in the last several budgets to link school funding more directly with enrollment, while awarding extra money based on the number of students considered at-risk. The "complexity index" for at-risk students has primarily reflected students in the federal school lunch program.

House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says budgeters are considering alternative ways to calculate the index, and says they‘ve tested more variations on formulas than he‘s ever seen in his three decades in the legislature -- nearly two dozen data runs by Bosma‘s count.

“That would be step one, step two will be determining exactly what the appropriate complexity measure is and whether the current one of free or reduced lunch is appropriate or if there is some variation on that,” Bosma said.

Republicans have said they want to eliminate the wide variation in per-pupil funding that the complexity index creates. Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) suggests returning to the practice of phasing out money for declining enrollment instead of imposing immediate cuts, to give schools time to deal with their fixed costs.

“We allowed schools to be able to phase out some of their fixed costs that they were getting cut if they were losing students and we shifted some of those dollars to the growing school corporations in a reasonable way. We could return to some of those things,” Pelath said.

Critics complain that had the effect of continuing to pay schools for students who were no longer there. Pelath says it successfully balanced the competing needs of school districts with opposite demographics.

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