As the Lake County representative on the House Ways and Means Committee, it is my responsibility to correct remarks recently made by Merrillville School Superintendent Tony Lux.
In a recent column, he cited a misleading report and said, "Since 2009, state funding for traditional public schools was reduced by $3 billion." This is an astronomical number — and why 2009? Closer scrutiny reveals 2009 received funding carried over from 2008, making for a very distorted view. Using the same analysis but going back to 2008 flips the numbers, showing nearly $3 billion in additional funding going to schools.
Both numbers are distorted and are not representative of school funding. The report Lux used was prepared by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, and contains over a page of disclaimers warning of its limitations. Efforts to promote public education do not benefit by these misrepresentations.
The Indiana Department of Education is charged with tracking every dollar of direct state aid sent to schools, and their data is audited and independently verifiable. If Lux were to review the IDOE data, he would see the average statewide per student funding for traditional public schools increased from $6,388 in 2009 to $6,631 in 2015.
I joined my fellow colleagues to recently pass a budget, which appropriated 52 cents of every dollar to support K-12 education. This means over $16 billion is dedicated to K-12 education over the next two years – the most state aid ever provided to K-12 schools.
As of this year, traditional public schools served 94 percent of the state's K-12 students and received 95 percent of the direct state aid dedicated to K-12 schools. This data confirms that public schools are not getting a disproportional amount compared to other schools.
The Great Recession set us all back, which is why we need to remain focused on building our Indiana economy. With increased revenue all programs benefit, especially public education.
State Rep. Hal Slager, R-Schererville, represents District 15. The opinions are the writer’s.