Lawmakers Work On Method Of Calculating Low-Income Student Population

Mar 9, 2015

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, during a meeting of Indiana’s Senate Education Committee in January.
Credit Kyle Stokes / http://indianapublicmedia.org/stateimpact/

House and Senate Republicans are in general agreement about how much to give schools in the new state budget.

But a debate is looming over how to calculate funding for low-income students.

Schools receive extra state funding based on a computation of how many students are from low-income families.

The House Republican budget proposes switching to a simple count of how many students are on the federal free-lunch program.

But House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown says that isn’t necessarily accurate because above a certain percentage, the federal government counts an entire school as being on the lunch program.

And he says the state can‘t simply use raw figures on the number of low-income households that come from the census.

"Years ago there were as many as six different factors to try to look at poverty," says Brown. "And we found that they weren't very good. They became outdated quickly, and that's part of the issue. What's the best measurement."

Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley says some schools may still end up losing money because they‘re losing enrollment.

But he says the House budget includes "enormous" increases in baseline per-pupil funding -- enough that he says all schools should feel treated fairly overall.