A letter to the editor from IPS Superintendent Eugene White on funding cuts, the state budget, and the "financial death spiral" of public education. Great cause to be concerned here as, in effect, the district will almost certainly have to cut programs in addtition to firing teachers. If you thought class size was a problem this year in the district...just wait till next.
Funding cuts create dire scenario for IPS
This month, approximately 300 Indianapolis Public Schools teachers and 40 administrative staff received notice that their positions would be eliminated as IPS prepares to cut $25 million from our budget. At the end of this school year, IPS will close six additional schools on top of the eight schools that were closed last year. These cuts are the necessary but painful result of declining enrollment and the dollars-follow-the-child funding formula adopted by the legislature in recent years. IPS still is determined to become a model urban school district by 2010. To meet the diverse learning needs of our students -- many of whom live in extreme poverty -- IPS has established more magnet and option programs than any other Indiana district. We've put a number of creative initiatives in place to increase student achievement and graduation rates, including 21 alternative programs serving students who are disruptive or who cannot learn in a traditional school setting. These programs are working and, until recently, there was reason for optimism in IPS. What changed? Under the budget adopted by the Indiana Senate, state funding for students who attend IPS will be cut by 2.5 percent in 2010 and 4.2 percent in 2011, a $26.5 million loss over the biennium. This loss is on top of the $8 million in property tax revenue that IPS is projected to lose to the new property tax caps over the next two years. These reductions alone are enough to force hundreds of additional teacher layoffs, but when you add the Senate's plan to repeal a state law that allows school corporations to levy property taxes to pay for utilities and insurance, IPS will be forced to cut an additional $22 million from its general fund, which pays teachers, to pay
for utility costs that were previously covered by property taxes.
The bottom line is that funding cuts of this magnitude will devastate IPS and severely disadvantage the children it serves. Even if the legislature ultimately rejects the Senate's plan to require schools to pay their utility bills with dollars that should be directed to the classroom, IPS would lose nearly $35 million over the next two years in state and local funding. If the Senate budget becomes law,
IPS will be forced to cut programs. Without the resources to compete with charter and neighboring school districts, IPS' enrollment will continue to drop and the district will be thrown into a financial death spiral that will make it difficult, if not impossible, to provide an adequate education for our students.
Some policymakers believe the additional Title I funding that IPS is projected to receive through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will help offset steep cuts in state funding. However, its strict requirements include the general rule that Title I dollars may not be used to replace state funding. Also, the Senate funding formula appears to contravene the intent of Congress in providing stimulus funding to states to stabilize public education. While there's no consensus that more money will improve educational outcomes, I think it's safe to say that less money, especially $35 million less, certainly won't help improve student achievement in IPS.