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MCS: Per-pupil funding declines

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@chronicle-tribune.com

Marion Community Schools Teacher Association President Scott Simpson encouraged school board members to attend the Third House Session on Saturday morning, which will host state legislators representing the county.

Simpson said there’s a common saying that “there are seven voices representing the community in state legislature” and that the community shouldn’t feel unheard, but he went on to explain that he doesn’t feel that is being reflected currently.

If that were the case, he said there should be seven “no” votes regarding the state budget because Marion is receiving less than the state average when it comes to per pupil funding in schools. While Indiana leads in areas like state graduation rate, he said it’s lagging behind in areas like per pupil funding.

“And our legislature criticizes school boards, like you, for having cash balances, saying that should not happen, but yet there is $2 billion in the state coffers for their rainy day fund. Well guess what – it’s raining,” he said. “And if we don’t patch the roof real quick, it’s gonna get real, real wet in a lot of school corporations because they’re not gonna have teachers to fill the positions that they need.”

Because of that, Simpson said they should clear their calendars and make sure they’re present to hear from the legislators on Saturday.

Assistant Superintendent of Business Affairs, Bob Schultz, told the school board that the State of Indiana has increased the amount of money given per student in a basic grant, but in order to do that, they’ve lowered the complexity index.

The complexity index, which has been an attempt to offer more resources to schools with higher poverty rates, has been lowered by 17 percent across the state, he said. This will result in schools that have a low level of poverty receiving more per student while schools that have a high level of poverty will get less, Schultz explained.

Schultz went on to give the example of East Chicago, which has the second highest level of poverty in the state. He said they will receive $14 less per student in the 2020 school year than what they are getting now. He compared that to Zionsville, which he said has the lowest poverty rate in the state, stating that they will receive $199 more per student.

He said even though schools with higher poverty rates do receive a total that is higher per student, not every student costs the same amount of money.

“The state is working to give the same amount of money per kid. It doesn’t matter what school you go to. If you go to East Chicago or Zionsville, you’ll get the same amount per kid and the school has to figure out how to compensate with that,” he said.

Even still, Schultz said that Marion has done a great job and he’s sure the corporation will continue to do so.

Schultz also confirmed that the sale of the old Tucker Career and Technology building will officially become property of Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) on Thursday morning. He said IWU chose to do a survey on the property at their own expense which has now been completed, so the sale will become official this week.

The board also took the time to recognize McCulloch Junior High’s choir and band teachers, Christina Huff and Ron Ways, and their choirs and bands for being the only school to win the Indiana All-Music award statewide for the fifth consecutive year.

Huff and Ways explained that it all started with solo and ensemble competitions. Huff said seven choir ensembles and six soloists entered and all but two received gold ratings and the other two received silver ratings. At the jazz contest, the choir received another gold rating and most recently, the concert choirs received gold ratings as well.

Ways said the band solo and ensemble entries had a total of 27 gold ratings, the jazz band received a gold medal and the contest band received a gold with distinction rating – a rating he said was only given to their band out of the 18 bands who performed.

The teachers thanked the board for the support and the board thanked them as well. Board member Aaron Vermilion said his son is in the band and felt nervous for the performance, which he said is an illustration for the culture of winning that has been created.

“We’re creating a culture where the expectation is the best. We’re not going over there just to go over there, we’re going over there expecting that we’re going to do our best,” he said.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for April 9 at 7 p.m.