Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Education on Agenda for Session's Second Half

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Education on Agenda for Session's Second Half

Article excerpt

INDIANAPOLIS - Though they won't be as sweeping as last year's major changes, Indiana lawmakers are considering education reforms of a different sort. The current 10-week legislative session could be divided in half: The rightto-work portion, which is dominating the period through the Super Bowl on Feb. 5, and "everything else," as in the issues that will get attention now that the labor fight is nearing its end.

Filling out a lot of that space will be education.

A set of changes ranging from the mechanisms that decide schools' finances to what the public knows about the pay their superintendents earn to what kind of handwriting their students are taught are on the agenda for that second half.

It might be one that will cause eyes to glaze over, but one of the most important involves changing the way schools physically count their students.

State funding for K-12 education is divvied up on a per-pupil basis, using a complicated formula that assigns each school a per- student value determined by how many of their students qualify for free and reduced lunch and several other factors.

Schools, meanwhile, hold an annual "count day" in September. That's when they try to get every student possible to show up, because they have to turn in the number of students present to the Indiana Department of Education. That number determines their level of funding for the next year.

Lawmakers tweaked the funding formula last year in an effort to adopt a policy that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett might describe as the funding following the child. Those changes trimmed formula clauses that sent extra cash to urban and rural schools where enrollment is shrinking.

Those schools took a hit, while growing suburban schools benefitted. If you need proof of the impact, chat with a teacher or administrator at a rural school. …

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