MORE FUNDS FOR LOCAL CLASSROOMS?

Most Jackson County school corporations would receive additional dollars per student if state lawmakers approve a proposed two-year budget that provides millions more in funding for public education.

But how much more each school stands to receive weighs on several factors, including enrollment, growth and the number of students from low-income families, school officials said.

The county’s largest district, Seymour Community Schools, with about 4,500 students, may see its funding increase by $255 per student during the next two years, or $1.21 million overall in new funding.

Brownstown Central Schools could receive $262 more per student for a total of $428,000 in additional funding and Medora would see an increase of $288 more per student, or $72,000 total, according to funding estimates provided by the state’s Legislative Services Agency.

Under the state’s updated funding formula, Crothersville Community Schools would be the only local school district to receive less money, an estimated $41 per student, or $20,000 total, because of a projected drop in enrollment and funding that supports at-risk students.

All of the amounts, besides Crothersville, represent about a 4 percent increase in funding levels. Currently, Seymour and Brownstown receive $6,400 per student in state funding and Medora gets $6,300 per student. Estimates for Crothersville represent a less than 1 percent decrease in its per-student funding.

The new funding formula is based on a complexity index that uses a school’s free lunch rate to determine its poverty level and need. In the past, the number of students receiving a reduced-cost lunch also contributed to a district’s complexity. The change, if approved, would cause some of the biggest and poorest school districts in the state, including Indianapolis Public Schools, to lose the most money.

State Representative Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, said he fully supports the House Budget Bill 1001, which increases K-12 funding by $469 million, or nearly 5 percent, during a two-year period.

“I support our proposed increase in K-12 funding because I believe a history of responsible budgeting has put us in a secure enough position to direct these additional dollars to the classroom, where learning occurs, while not jeopardizing other areas of need,” he said. “Even with the substantial increase in education funding, our state is still living within its means, which protects Hoosier taxpayers.”

Steve Nauman, business manager for Seymour Community Schools, said any additional funding from the state would be positive for the corporation, allowing it to increase staffing and pay its teachers more.

The state’s proposal to fully fund full-day kindergarten programs also would be good news, he said. Currently, kindergarten students only count as half a student for funding purposes, even if the district offers full-day kindergarten, like Seymour.

Nauman said the biggest factor Seymour has on its side is its anticipated growth.

“We expect to grow at least 50 to 100 students each year over the next two years,” he said. “As long as we continue to grow, most changes will be positive. Unlike many schools around us with declining enrollment, we can continue to add programs, keep class sizes down, add staff and give raises based on the new money received each year.”

With the proposed formula, most schools also would see overall increases in funding for special education, career and technology education and honors programs. Because of the change in complexity index, however, funding for students from low-income families is expected to be cut.

Crothersville Superintendent and state District 66 Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Austin, said he is concerned with the proposed changes to the funding formula.

He said some students are more at-risk and difficult to educate than others and the formula lessens how much corporations receive for those students.

“Several years ago, we put in a funding formula that was fair and adequately based on need,” Goodin said.

The Republicans at the Statehouse contend the new formula reduces the gap in per-student funding between the highest- and lowest-funded public schools by 51 percent compared to 2011 and forces the funding to follow the children wherever they go to school.

“That sounds great, but in reality it doesn’t necessarily happen that way,” Goodin responded.

Goodin said Crothersville’s enrollment also is going to decline some and that should mean less funding.

At Medora, one of the smallest public school corporations in the state, the additional funding will help the school do more.

“It will allow us to add some needed administrative help at the school and additional programs for students such as career and technical education courses through Bedford,” Bane said. “We have also discussed adding additional class offerings at the junior-senior high school.”

Harry Rochner, business manager for Brownstown Central Schools, doesn’t expect the state’s current funding estimates to hold true.

He also said the district will have to wait until the fall before it knows exactly where it stands with enrollment and the number of students taking vocational, special education and honors classes.

“I think we are a long ways from knowing what our revenue will be next year,” he said.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.