Focus on Dollars for Students, Not Districts

The following is a column penned by Derek Redelman, our VP of education and workforce policy, that appeared in several Indiana newspapers. The piece continues to draw attention; see it here in the Muncie Star Press.

It is a myth that suburban and charter schools are favored by the state budget that was just adopted, while Indianapolis Public Schools and other urban districts "took it on the chin,” as the Indianapolis Star article elsewhere on this page phrases it.

In reality, the winners of this state budget are overwhelmingly urban districts like IPS. Sure, some of those districts will face funding cuts; but those cuts are disproportionately small compared to their losses in enrollment. Conversely, growing districts will receive increases, but those increases are disproportionately small compared to their increases in enrollment.

IPS, which is projected to lose nearly 4,000 students over the next two years, will start with $8,580 per student, or $9,429 when federal funds are included. Over the next two years, those amounts rise to $9,014 and $10,254, respectively. (These numbers include all state funding but do not include funds from property taxes).

That’s an increase of five percent in base funding and 8.2 percent when federal funds are included. Cumulatively, that means that continuing students in IPS will receive an increase of more than $13.6 million in baseline funding and more than $26.5 million when federal funds are included.

Contrast that with Hamilton Southeastern, which is projected to gain more than 1,600 students. The district starts with only $5,762 per student and just $5,784, including federal funds. Over the next two years, those funding levels actually fall to $5,701 and $5,772, respectively.

That’s a decline of 1.1 percent in base funding and 0.2 percent when federal funds are included. Cumulatively, Hamilton Southeastern students will lose more than $1 million in baseline funding or just under $300,000 including federal funds.

By the logic of urban school leaders, these enrollment changes are irrelevant. Based solely on changes to district-level funding, they suggest that urban districts will "suffer" while suburban districts and charter schools will be "the winners." Continue reading

Present an Award; Accept the Boos

Over the last two days, the Indiana Chamber visited eight of the 10 Head of the Class schools identified in the annual Indiana’s Best Buys report. (Mother Nature interfered with two trips scheduled for Wednesday).

Chamber education expert Derek Redelman gets the road warrior award for a Tuesday itinerary that took him to Signature School in Evansville, nearby Castle and across the southern part of the state to North Harrison. President Kevin Brinegar stayed closer to home with North Central (Indianapolis) and Hamilton Southeastern presentations.

I ended up with a Batesville-Monroe Central doubleheader — both schools I had visited under different circumstances. For Monroe Central in Parker City, it was covering high school basketball games as part of my sportswriting role prior to coming to the Chamber. I was able to share a few basketball tales and names from the past with the current staff.

Batesville, though, is where things were most interesting. While I was born a mere minute away from the town’s high school at the local hospital, the students gathered for the announcement focused on the fact that I went to school at rival East Central. They expressed their vocal displeasure, but I won them back by telling them their school earned a majority of the basketball victories in matchups between their Bulldogs and my Trojans during my prep days.

Another note: First-year Batesville Principal Tim Stephens deserves kudos as he was the leader at Hauser (a Best Buy honoree each of the last two years). While the report measures high school performance, Stephens pointed out that it is really an award for the entire district.

Rounding out the top 10 are Center Grove and Rushville. Congratulations to all.

View current and past Best Buys reports, along with this year’s press release.