INDIANAPOLIS | Many Northwest Indiana schools would receive less state funding over the next two years under a Republican budget plan expected to be approved by a House committee Friday.
The proposed budget continues Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels' $300 million annual education funding cut through 2013, eliminates small-school and restoration grants and takes the so-called "deghoster" -- three years of additional payments to schools that lose students -- out of the school funding formula.
Gary Community School Corp. is the biggest loser among region schools under the plan. State funding for Gary schools will drop from $94.2 million this year to $79.2 million in 2012 and $74.3 million in 2013.
Other school corporations facing significant 2012 cuts include Whiting, 5.9 percent; Lake Ridge, 4.3 percent; North Newton, 3.1 percent; South Newton, 3 percent; East Chicago, 2.8 percent; Munster, 2.5 percent; Porter Township, 2.4 percent; Hammond, 2.2 percent; and Boone Township, 2.1 percent.
The proposed state budget reduces funds for most of these schools again in 2013.
State Rep. Earl Harris, D-East Chicago, said he suspects the actual cuts may end up being even deeper.
"The money we need to go into public schools is going elsewhere -- between charters and vouchers -- so naturally, we're going to have a loss," Harris said. "It's not good."
But not every region school corporation is losing state funding. Among schools set to receive more money in 2012 are Merrillville, 5.2 percent; East Porter, 1.7 percent; Hobart, 1.6 percent; Crown Point, 1.5 percent; Griffith, 1.5 percent; Portage, 0.5 percent; and Valparaiso, 0.4 percent.
Several local charter schools also will receive funding boosts, including Hammond Academy of Science and Technology, 16.9 percent; East Chicago Lighthouse, 14 percent; West Gary Lighthouse, 5.7 percent; East Chicago Urban Enterprise, 4.6 percent; and 21st Century Charter in Gary, 2.6 percent.
Thea Bowman Academy in Gary is slated for an 11.6 percent funding cut. Gary Lighthouse will lose 1 percent of its funds.
State Rep. Don Lehe, R-Brookston, cautioned that Friday's expected committee approval of the budget is only an early step in the legislative process and that the final spending plan won't be worked out until April.
"We have to pass a budget and everybody's taking a hit and, quite frankly, education isn't taking as bad a hit as some of the agencies have had to take," Lehe said.
State Rep. Dan Stevenson, D-Highland, said there's no way he could vote for a plan cutting funding for every school corporation in his legislative district.
"It just makes the situation of public education worse, where last year they were hit with losses from the governor taking money away, and now we're going to compound it by taking more away this time," Stevenson said. "It's just wrong."