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What's happening at the Statehouse

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #269 – January 17, 2017

Dear Friends,

Governor Holcomb’s proposed budget bump for K-12 funding is disappointingly low. 

His budget was released on January 10th, one day after he called for a “world class education” for Hoosiers in his inaugural address at the state fairgrounds.  He is likely to say similar things tonight in his State of the State address.

His budget calls for an increase of 1% in the first year, a total increase of $70 million.  In dollars, the second year would match the $70 million and then add $140 million, a 2% increase over the first year.  Adding $70 million for the first year and then $210 million for the second year makes a total increase of $280 million, a figure featured on the front page of the Indianapolis Star.

While it sounds like a lot of money, it’s a figure that doesn’t even keep up with inflation in the first year and barely does so in the second year.

The latest annual inflation rate reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is 1.7%.  The 1% Holcomb proposal is far less than the cost of living increase and would not allow schools to even keep up current programs in 2017-18, let alone correct the teacher compensation problem that has left Indiana with a highly publicized teacher shortage.

Attached is the history of school funding in Indiana’s last nine budgets.  Comparing the Governor’s new proposal to this history shows that this is a weak opening proposal at a time when Indiana has a large surplus. 

It would appear that Governor Holcomb is not ready to fund a “world class education.”  We will hope that the House and Senate leaders can do better for public education in their budgets.

It is early in the budget process, and public school advocates need to ask members of the House and the Senate to at least match the 2.3% of the last budget cycle.  If legislators want to put a true priority on supporting education, ask them to extend that support to a 3% funding increase each year.

Comparisons to the 2015 Budget

In the 2015 two-year budget, the first year increase was $157 million and the second year increase over that was $160 million.  Remember that to maintain the first year increase in the second year, $157 million in new money must be added in.  Therefore the two-year increase of new money in the 2015 budget was $157 million for the first year plus $157 million (to match the first year) plus $160 million for the second year, or a total of $474 million in new money.

It’s hard to see why we would do less after hearing all the recent reports about how well things are going in Indiana and how we are maintaining a large surplus.  Why would our public schools be thrown back into hard times and recession era cutbacks by giving them only a 1% increase?

It is time to call or email your legislators about strong funding for our public schools.  Start first with members of the House since the House budget is completed first.  The Senate budget is usually unveiled in early April.  Let legislators know that the public schools of Indiana need strong and stable funding to implement the high standards that have been set.

For the full context of budget proposals, study the “Total Funding” column in the attached history of school funding increases which I have compiled over the last 18 years of Indiana budgets.

Thank you for your dedicated support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

Vic’s Statehouse Notes
#268 – January 9, 2017  

Dear Friends,

At the first Senate Education Committee meeting of the 2017 Session on Wednesday January 4th, Senate Bill 30 was given a hearing.  Senate Bill 30 deserves strong support.

It provides that the Indiana Department of Education give information to Indiana school districts about the name of the school that each voucher student in the district transfers to.

This bill providing greater information received widespread support in the hearing.  ICPE lobbyist Joel Hand spoke in favor of the bill.  The lobbyist for the Institute for Quality Education, the group that supports private school vouchers, testified in favor of the bill as well.  Every group that testified favored the bill.

Senate Bill 30 will be voted on next Wednesday January 11th at the second meeting of the Senate Education Committee which begins at 1:30pm.  Before that time, let the members of the committee know that you stand in strong support of Senate Bill 30.

Senate Bill 30

The sponsor of Senate Bill 30 is Senator Eric Koch, who previously served in the House of Representatives until he ran for the Senate seat vacated by the retirement of Senator Steele.  Senate Bill 30 requires the Indiana Department of Education to provide two things to each public school district:

“(1) The name of each eligible school in which an eligible choice scholarship student who has legal settlement in the school corporation is enrolled; and (2) number of the eligible choice scholarship students who are enrolled in each eligible school for the current school year. 

This information would be very helpful to school districts as they work to meet the needs of all students who have legal settlement in their district.

Contact Senate Education Committee Members

Let your own Senator know that you support Senate Bill 30, as well as the members of the Senate Education Committee who will vote on this bill on Wednesday, January 11th.  Education Committee members this year are as follows:

Republican Senators Kruse (Chair), Raatz, Bassler, Crane, Freeman, Kenley, Leising, and Zay

Democratic Senators Melton, Mrvan and Stoops

One easy way to email each Senator is to go to the Indiana General Assembly website and click on Committees and then on Senate Education Committee.  You will then see small pictures of each committee member on the left.  When you click on each picture, a link to send the Senator an email will come up for you to paste a brief note to each saying that you support Senate Bill 30.

Thank you for your dedicated support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith