ST. JOHN | It’s the dawn of a new era in state funding for education, according to a Lake Central School Corp. official.
Rob James, director of business services, told the School Board last week about recent changes made to Indiana law that will affect how public schools receive funding. The changes were made by the Indiana General Assembly in its biennial budget session that ended April 29.
The changes include when funding is distributed to the school districts, the number of times students are counted to determine funding for a school year and what goes into the school funding formula.
James said Indiana’s new biennial budget provides a 2 percent increase in funding for K-12 for fiscal year 2014 and a 1 percent increase in fiscal year 2015 for kindergarten through 12th grade statewide. That represents nearly $6.62 billion for 2014 and $6.69 billion for 2015.
However, not all that funding from the state sales tax is going to public schools. It will be divided among public, private, parochial and charter schools.
The shift from a calendar year to a fiscal year in distributing funds is one of the major adjustments made by the Legislature, James said.
A calendar year runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. A fiscal year is any 12-month period that begins in one year and ends in the next year. For school systems, this is usually July 1 to June 30.
Like a fiscal year, each school year spans two calendar years. For example, the current Lake Central school year of 2012-13 started in August 2012 and ends later this month.
James said funding will now coincide with a school year.
Starting in June, the Indiana State Department of Education will begin counting the number of students attending classes twice each year rather than once in the fall, James said.
Determining how much funding each school district receives is based on average daily membership figures that count the number of students attending classes at a particular time. In the past, a specific date in September was used to calculate a district’s ADM.
Now, the fall ADM will be collected in June for the July to December basic tuition support. That number will be based on the number of students enrolled by that time in all Lake Central schools for the 2013-2014 school year, he said.
“We always have parents who don’t know that kindergarten registration was in March, or who move into the district before the start of school,” James said.
In February, a spring ADM will be collected to determine how much the school district will receive in basis tuition support per student for January to July.
“Expect this count to be lower than the fall ADM count because of mid-year graduates and a few expulsions,” he said. “The students have worked so hard to graduate at mid-year (in December), and that will now cost us money.”
Another change involves adding full-day kindergarten numbers to figure the amount of money each district receives to fund education, James said.
Declining enrollment in the beginning grades compared with graduating classes will affect the amount of tuition support Lake Central School Corp. will receive, he said.
“We have 800 students graduating on June 4. There are only 650 students in kindergarten classes,” James said. “Each cohort (those students staying together through successive grade levels) will continue to go down. That will be a problem in the future.”