GUEST COMMENTARY: Another financial setback for cash strapped schools?
GUEST COMMENTARY

GUEST COMMENTARY: Another financial setback for cash strapped schools?

On Oct. 15, a Legislative “Summer” Committee is going to evaluate the Complexity Index portion of the school funding formula. The “Complexity Index” is a school funding component directly related to the number of disadvantaged students of poverty a public school system serves.

The question once again being asked by some legislators is why disadvantaged students need additional funding beyond the basic school formula. The reasons are many and obvious to anyone with even a cursory experience with students of poverty.

In homes of poverty, there is less opportunity for early childhood educational opportunities. Children in single family homes, or homes where parents have to work evenings, more often experience language development deficits. As a result, students of poverty start school significantly behind their wealthier peers.

At upper grades, there is a lack of support from adults with advanced educational degrees. Parents of poverty cannot afford the cost of additional tutoring or even transportation to the public library or their school for additional support. The frequency of medical and emotional trauma is significantly higher in students of poverty.

Public schools that serve the highest proportion of students of poverty need to provide more resources for academic aides, tutoring staff, nurses and social workers than are needed in schools serving wealth. Schools of poverty need to provide more after-school and summer remediation programs as well. Schools of poverty need to be able to offer competitive salaries to attract and hold highly qualified teachers.

Since 2008, public school funding in Indiana has lagged significantly behind the rest of the nation with respect to cost of living increases. While average Indiana teacher salaries are among the worst in the nation, teachers in the poorest of urban schools have suffered the most, or have been recruited away to higher paying districts.

Funds diverted away from public schools through the proliferation of charter schools; private school vouchers that primarily fund non-public school students; tax caps; and the reduction of property taxes from mega retail stores are financially crippling urban and rural public schools. The only legislative remedy allowed is a referendum, possible only for wealthier communities.

Here are key local legislators on the Complexity Index “Summer” Committee:

• Sen. Ed Charbonneau: s5@iga.in.gov

• Sen. Eric Bassler, Chairperson: senator.bassler@iga.in.gov

• Sen. Karen Tallian: s4@iga.in.gov

• Rep. Timothy Brown, Vice Chairperson: h41@iga.in.gov

Please contact them and demand that Complexity Index funding for our poorest students must be protected and increased.

Tony Lux is a retired superintendent of Merrillville Schools and a board member of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education. The opinions are the writer's.

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