School Funding in our Community
By State Sen. Erin Houchin (R-Salem) and State Rep. Steve Davisson (R-Salem)
Recently, a front-page story ran about a meeting hosted by Salem Community Schools inviting the Indiana State Teachers Association to explain school funding and teacher salaries. Presenters claimed that “change needs to happen at the state level” regarding school funding, and that lawmakers “just don’t care” about Indiana’s school system or teachers.
As lawmakers representing these schools at the Statehouse, we were not invited to join the discussion to provide information regarding school funding from the state.
Even more importantly, one of us currently has three children in the Salem Community School system, and the other has two grandchildren in the school system and family who work for the school system. We can assure you, as lawmakers and as involved community members, we do care.
We want to take this opportunity to provide some facts about school funding and how our school system compares to other local school districts.
With more than 50 percent of the state’s general fund dedicated to schools, K-12 education is Indiana’s biggest funding priority. In fact, Indiana is second in the nation for the percentage of our budget devoted to education, according to the Census Bureau.
During discussions on Indiana’s last two-year budget, we both voted to increase K-12 funding by $474 million statewide. We also supported $70 million in teacher performance grants to increase pay for Indiana teachers.
The article also reports that presenters claimed the school funding formula is not fair because schools that have an increase in enrollment are receiving more funding.
Indiana’s school funding formula is based on student enrollment for each school. State dollars follow the student to the school they attend. The fairest way to allocate education dollars is to provide schools money based on the number of students they educate.
During the meeting, the funding Salem Community Schools receives was compared to the funding Seymour Community Schools receives. Seymour schools have double the enrollment of Salem schools, so they receive more money under Indiana’s school funding formula. But a comparison of per-student funding paints a clearer picture.
During the 2014-15 school year, Salem received $6,895 per student from the state. Seymour actually received $70 less per student from the state than Salem. The major difference in overall funding comes from the local funding schools receive. Salem schools receive $2,947 per student in local funding, whereas Seymour schools receive $3,965 per student in local funding. The state does not control the funding from local taxes that go to schools.
We want to hear from parents, teachers and community members about this important issue, and we want to make sure that everyone has correct information.
We understand the importance of K-12 education and the critical role it plays in building our state’s future workforce. As lawmakers preparing for the next legislative session, we will continue to advocate for our schools and teachers.
If you have any questions, please contact us by email or phone.