GUEST COMMENTARY: Public school funding is same old shell game

2013-02-03T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Public school funding is same old shell gameBy Tony Lux
February 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Here we go again, listening to ingratiating promises from state government about prioritizing education and promising a whopping 1 percent increase to public school funding. It sure looks like the little pea of additional school funding is there in plain sight under the shell of public school funding.

Perhaps we really don't need to pay attention to those other shells that the shell game artist moves around in front of us — private school vouchers, charter school dollars and tax caps. So far, every time they move the cups around, the little pea of additional funding appears right under the public school shell — an easy bet for us to win the prize if we just trust that the pea will end up in the right place.

So let's see what's being promised. We can afford a 3 percent tax cut because the state has a surplus. We are told not to worry about reductions in state revenue, because all priorities can be covered. But what are the priorities? Replacing the $600 million that was cut from public education the last two years? Nope. So now schools must continue to meet higher standards with less annual revenue. (Where did that pea go?)

Yes, we've been promised a whopping 1 percent increase in funding for public education. But then again, isn't the hand quicker than the eye? How so? Well, if private school vouchers are extended to students already in private schools, where would those millions of dollars in voucher money come from? From additional tax dollars? Not if there is a tax reduction! Surely voucher funding wouldn't come from the 1 percent increase to public school funding? (That pea is still there under the shell of public school funding, isn't it? Or is it?)

By the way, someone please remind me how that 1 percent public school funding increase stacks up against lost school revenue due to tax caps in the millions of dollars for some public school districts? (Wait, wasn't that pea right there in front of us?)

Another promise has been for full funding of full-day kindergarten. Is that in addition to the 1 percent funding increase or part of the increase? (Did another shell just appear on the table? They are all moving so fast.)

Finally, if memory serves right, the last time there was a large state surplus it was just before a state recession. At that time, tax cuts were granted because there was also a big surplus, then suddenly the surplus was gone, state revenue diminished, and all the cuts to public education started.

Those cuts have never been restored, despite restored revenues. Could history repeat itself? (Darn! I thought that pea was right there before our eyes!)

Please contact state lawmakers and tell them we are tired of the same old shell game!

Tony Lux is superintendent of Merrillville Community School Corp. The opinions are the writer's.

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