To Avoid Flat Funding, Educators Embrace One-Year Budget

The House and Ways Committee passed a one-year education budget Tuesday morning that represents a two percent increase over last year’s budget. Multiple education groups, including the Indiana State Teacher’s Association, have endorsed the one-year K-12 budget proposal.

According to Indiana University Education Policy Professor Rob Toutkoushian, the groups are
willing to take on the risks of a one-year budget if it means an uptick in funding next year.

Now, the committee’s one-year proposal, put forward by Democrats, heads to the Democrat-controlled House and then, possibly to the Republican-controlled Senate.

“It’s unprecedented as far as I know. I’m not aware of any situation where the state has done something like this before,” Toutkoushian said.

He said schools would prefer two-year budgets, but with the condition of the state’s finances, he said, they’re willing to try something new.

“From their point of view, it’s a benefit to them. Because if they didn’t go with this, if they went with the Governor’s proposal of flat funding for the two years, it would be a zero percent increase,” said Toutkaushian. “Which, as several people have noted, it’s actually a decrease in total funding. It’s a decrease because their expenditures will go up.”

The issue is quickly becoming political. Education groups are lining up with Democrats because even though the one-year budget hurts long-term planning, it represents more money next year. The Governor’s plan does not.

Toutkoushian said schools tend to prefer long-term budgets because teacher contracts are signed for two- or three-year periods. He said the plan causes uncertainty for school corporations, as it leaves their long-term funding picture more up in the air. However, he said it may be a choice between the lesser of two evils.

“From their point of view, there is not a lot of risk in doing this at this particular time. Plus they would get a two percent increase in the first year,” Toutkaushian said. “And with education funding, given the importance of education in our society, it’s very hard to imagine a situation where the state would decrease funding for K-12 funding in any particular year.”

Toutkoushian said that although the one-year budget is a viable alternative to the Governor’s proposal, the concept may become a slippery slope for the legislature, which is supposed to create two-year budgets. Above all, he said, one-year budgets will always better capture subtle changes in the economy from year to year.

Daniel Robison

Daniel started as WFIU's Assistant News Director in July 2008. He graduated with a B.A. in history in 2007 and earned an M.A. in journalism two years later. Daniel hosts Ask the Mayor weekly and the occasional Noon Edition. He also hosts Morning Edition on Thursdays, sleepily. Daniel's beats include everything News Director Stan Jastrzebski wants him to cover. And it feels strange to type biography of myself in the third person like this. So that's that.

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