KPC News Service
This year for the first time when Hoosiers are filing their taxes they can donate directly to the K-12 Public Education Fund.
The donation process is similar to the opportunity to contribute to Indiana’s nongame fish and wildlife fund when you pay your taxes. An eagle logo marks the line provided on the Indiana state tax form to donate all or part of your tax refund.
(People may donate directly to the nongame fund by mailing contributions to: Nongame Fund, 402 W. Washington St. Room W273, Indianapolis, IN 46204.)
Most of the $329,000 the nongame fund raised in 2014 was contributed by Hoosier taxpayers.
The law providing the new opportunity for Indiana taxpayers to donate to public education using all or part of their tax refund was passed in 2013 (House Bill 1545), but it took a while to implement its provisions.
In the press release from the Republican Caucus of the Indiana House of Representatives, state Rep. Tim Harman, R-Bremen, states, “Hoosiers can conveniently donate to any public K-12 school in Indiana by filling out the Schedule 5 credit/donation form and include it with their income tax form. This is a simple way for people to give back to their community and support the kids who will one day be tomorrow’s leaders.”
But that statement should not be construed as meaning that you can direct your donation to your local school. Unfortunately, at this time, the money cannot be designated to a specific school.
Harman, who wrote the law establishing the donation option, said Hoosiers can find the donation area listed under “Public K-12 Education Fund” on their 2016 tax forms.
In a phone interview, Harman said he got the idea a few years ago when he went door to door and voters told him that instead of the tax rebate that was being proposed at the time (because of the state’s surplus) they would prefer to see the money go to public schools.
Harman said the legislature has yet to decide how the donations to the Public K-12 Education Fund will be divided among the schools. But Harman believes the money should have some impact and be used in a creative way, instead of dividing it up in small amounts among the schools or being added to a general fund.
“But it is guaranteed for public education,” he said.
He said he believes donations to the nongame wildlife fund at one time were in the $400,000 to $500,000 range and he hopes donations to the public education fund are in the millions.
In the years since the state assumed control of school corporations’ finances, schools have been forced to do more with less. Public schools have seen larger class sizes, the elimination of some teachers (especially in the arts), reduced hours for teaching assistants and fewer professional development opportunities.
This has occurred while increasing funding for charter schools which in some cases have not been doing well in terms of student achievement. In 2013 many public school educators were outraged when a law forgave $91.2 million in Common School Fund loans to charter schools.
In addition, the state has dipped into the coffers of the Indiana State Teacher Retirement Fund, resulting in an unfunded liability that is jeopardizing the financial security of retired teachers.
While we heartily support this opportunity to aid public education, we think that most people would prefer to be able to direct their donation to the school or schools of their choice instead of donating in this general way with no specified purpose.
This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.