INDIANAPOLIS -- Wondering how Gov. Frank O'Bannon's proposed budget will affect Indiana public schools?
During a press conference at the Statehouse Tuesday, representatives from Indiana Assoc. of School Business Officials, Indiana Assoc. of Public School Superintendents and Indiana School Board Assoc. shared results from school corporation surveys.
The survey asked for comments regarding the impact of a frozen revenue stream on the school district and the services it provides to students.
"Our (Clay Community) school district absorbed most of the revenue reduction in 2002 by using our cash balance. We have no other sources of revenue; therefore staff reduction is our only option. The end result will be increased class sizes and/or reduction in programs such as Advanced Placement, which typically has small enrollments," was the local response to the survey.
On the average, school corporations will need in excess of a 3 percent increase in funding to sustain present programs with existing salaries. Increased enrollments, utility costs, insurance increases, coupled with existing salary increase schedules, combine to cause the increase.
"Given the enrollment gains projected for the next two years, costs for increased enrollment and inflation, growing school corporations should be increasing staff size and preserving their cash balances," Roger Thornton, ISBA, said.
Enrollment for K-12 in Indiana public schools increased by nearly 1 percent from last year. The severe handicapped count jumped 6.67 percent and mild/moderate handicapped count grew by 3.7 percent.
Some school corporations have strong cash balances and will be able to avoid harmful cuts for the short term. Others, with minimal cash balances or growing school corporations, will face layoffs and program cuts and/or increased class size.
Gov. O'Bannon's proposed flat-line budget also specifically calls for removal of grant funding for all school transportation categories and Americans With Disabilities Act Flat Grant.
"Our goal and intent is to enable legislators to know as well as they can what will happen to individual school corporations and in general. We know there's a crunch, but our children are only going to live this year once," Thornton said.
Frank Bush, ISBA, said the state budget is at a crossroads.
"Moneys are not available to fund the programs necessary to meet Public Law 221 (school accountability) mandates. We must do what we have to do for students to achieve Indiana's high learning standards at every grade level," he said.
Indiana might be the only state in the nation to look at extended learning time, Bush said.
"Extended learning time" could mean remedial students would have longer school days, more days in school during the year or longer summer school hours.
A proposal submitted by the three organizations also calls for what they call the "best practices" approach. It gives the Department of Education a leadership and resource role by which it can identify the best practices of high performance schools and make expert resource persons available to low performing schools.
"We believe it will take five years to do this. And if it takes a tax increase, so be it. Appropriations need to be generated," Bush said.
The initial estimate is that extended summer school for all students not meeting standards will total $4.5 million per grade level. Adding full day kindergarten to students who qualify for free or reduced lunch and are not presently funded would be about $25 million. And adding resources for the best practices program could total up to $10 million.
"The credit card bill has come due on Public Law 221! Unless our economy grows, we will not be able to pay for funding of these mandated programs," Dennis Costerison, IASBO, said.
If the proposal is to succeed, adequate support from parents, community and business leaders and educators must be demonstrated to legislators and the Governor.
Editor's Note: Tomorrow The Times will report on how the proposed flat-line budget will directly affect Clay Community Schools.