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State budget proposals boost charter schools, educators claim

Special needs teacher DebrHoward leads her students including Brielle Johns10 (left) MakaylBurford 8 (center) song about place value their multi-grade

Special needs teacher Debra Howard leads her students, including Brielle Johnson, 10, (left) and Makayla Burford, 8, (center) in a song about place value in their multi-grade class at Frankie McCullough Academy for Girls in Gary, Ind. Thursday April 11, 2013. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

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School funding

Proposed increase or decrease in state funding:

Senate 2014 2015

Lake County

Hanover Central 4.7 1.9

River Forest -2.5 -2.2

Merrillville 2.3 1.1

Lake Central 2.1 1.2

Tri-Creek 1.0 0.6

Lake Ridge -1.1 -1.8

Crown Point 2.4 0.6

East Chicago -3.9 -1.2

Lake Station 2.6 0.4

Gary -7.6 -4.5

Griffith 1.2 1.5

Hammond 3.3 0.3

Highland 2.1 1.5

Hobart 1.7 0.3

Munster 2.4 1.4

Whiting -3.8 -2.4

Porter County

Boone Township 2.8 1.0

Duneland 2.1 0.7

East Porter 1.3 0.4

Porter Township -0.1 -0.4

Union Township -0.6 0.4

Portage Township 3.5 0.9

Valparaiso 2.9 1.5

Charter schools

School of the Dunes 0.0 -3.3

Thee Bowman 8.9 8.4

Gary Lighthouse 2.4 -3.4

21st Century 4.6 -2.4

EC Urban Enterprise 6.1 1.9

EC Lighthouse 6.0 -1.3

W. Gary Lighthouse 3.6 0.0

KIPP LEAD 4.1 8.3

Aspire -1.6 -1.7

Hammond Academy 7.8 1.3

Discovery 12.6 6.1

Gary Middle College* 90.0 -5.5

House 2014 2015

Lake County

Hanover Central 4.4 2.0

River Forest -2.3 -2.0

Merrillville 2.0 1.2

Lake Central 1.8 1.3

Tri-Creek 0.7 0.7

Lake Ridge -0.7 -1.7

Crown Point 2.1 0.8

East Chicago -2.1 -1.4

Lake Station 2.3 0.5

Gary -5.1 -4.4

Griffith 2.4 0.9

Hammond 3.1 0.4

Highland 2.4 1.1

Hobart 1.4 0.4

Munster 2.5 1.1

Whiting -3.3 -1.7

Porter County

Boone Township 2.3 1.2

Duneland 1.8 0.8

East Porter 1.1 0.5

Porter Township -0.2 -0.4

Union Township 0.8 0.1

Portage Township 3.2 1.0

Valparaiso 2.6 1.6

Charter schools

School of the Dunes -3.8 -1.9

Thea Bowman 10.1 8.5

Gary Lighthouse -0.5 -2.3

21st Century 0.6 -1.2

EC Urban Enterprise 6.0 2.3

EC Lighthouse 2.8 -0.2

W. Gary Lighthouse 2.6 0.8

KIPP LEAD 9.8 7.2

Aspire -0.6 -1.2

Hammond Academy 2.1 3.1

Discovery 12.3 6.2

Gary Middle College* 57.1 0.6

*new in 2013

learn more

www.in.gov/legislative/senate_republicans

www.in.gov/legislative/house_republicans

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Updated: May 15, 2013 6:37AM



Both House and Senate versions of the biennium budget under consideration in the General Assembly appear to favor charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools, local educators say.

For example, Gary Community School Corp. is facing decreases of 7.6 percent in the Senate’s 2014 budget and 5.1 percent in the House budget.

A Gary charter school, Thea Bowman Leadership Academy, is set to receive an additional 8.9 percent under the House budget and 10.1 percent under the House budget for 2014.

The complex state funding formula takes several factors into consideration for funding, including enrollment, poverty, special education, honors courses and full-day kindergarten. Now that both chambers have budgets, lawmakers will spend the remaining days of the session hashing out a final budget before the session ends April 29.

But not all charters are winners. Charter School of the Dunes in Gary is facing negative funding in both House and Senate budgets.

In Porter County, Discovery Charter School, near Chesterton, is the big winner with a proposed 12.6 percent increase from the Senate in 2014 and 12.3 percent in the House budget. The school opened with 312 students in 2010 and is projected to have 470 students next year. After Discovery, the highest increase is 3.5 percent for Portage Township Schools in 2014 in the Senate budget.

East Porter is looking at slight increases in both budgets of 1.3 percent from the Senate and 1.1 percent from the House in 2014.

East Porter Superintendent Rod Gardin said the Senate version would provide a $162,000 increase, but his district’s health insurance increased $140,000 last year and other costs such as fuel and utilities are rising.

“The increases they’re proposing just barely keeps pace with one area. ... We really need a true 2 or 3 percent increase.”

Programs being cut

Gary School Board member Nellie Moore, who chairs the district’s budget and finance committee, said it’s struggling now to retain staff levels and programs.

“We really have our backs against the wall in terms of what we can cut and still provide a quality education for our students. We don’t have many more buildings that we can close,” she said.

Moore said the district has already sacrificed popular summer foreign language and science programs, as well as summer band.

“This is a state legislature that’s gung-ho on charters and faith-based schools. They’re doing everything they can to undermine public schools and to encourage vouchers.”

Four other Lake County districts — River Forest, Lake Ridge, East Chicago and Whiting — join Gary in the negative funding club.

Under the Senate budget, River Forest would lose 2.5 percent in 2014 and 2.2 percent in 2015.

River Forest Superintendent James Rice said the district is saved by a successful employee health benefit plan that’s held premiums down for six years. “It’s enabled us to avoid layoffs and program cuts and shore up our reserves,” he said.

In Munster, Superintendent Richard Sopko said his district, under the proposed budgets, will still have the lowest per pupil funding in Lake County. His district stands to gain 2.4 percent under the 2014 Senate budget and 2.5 percent under the House budget. It drops in 2015, however, to small increases of 1.4 percent and 1.1 percent.

Munster voters will decide May 7 whether they’ll support a general fund referendum that will raise taxes to provide an additional $3 million a year to the school district for seven years.

Similar referendums are planned by the Boone Township schools in Hebron and in Union Township in Porter County.

Educators say the funding shortages harken back to 2008, when the state took over school funding, shifting it away from local property taxes. Since then, Sopko says, 70 percent of charter schools have fared above the state per-pupil average in spending, while 70 percent of traditional public schools have fallen below it.

Gardin said the move took control from local taxpayers and allowed the GOP-led state to dictate education funding.

“I think the state wanted to control public schools and the way to control was to cut off their money supply so they’ve been able to expand money for virtual, charter and voucher schools.”



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