Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Why Some Hoosiers Would Rather See The State's Surplus Go Back To Schools

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Since taking office in 2005, Gov. Mitch Daniels has made cuts that have resulted in a $2 billion surplus. Now some Hoosiers are calling for that money to go back to programs instead of taxpayers.

Gov. Mitch Daniels says Hoosiers could see an automatic tax refund next year, courtesy of a law the General Assembly passed in 2011 that requires the state return money to taxpayers when the surplus reaches a certain percent of the state’s budget. But Steve Hinnefeld over at School Matters argues that money could be better spent on education:

“Because this national economy continues to struggle and could plummet again for all we know, our first job has always been to protect Hoosiers.”
—Gov. Mitch Daniels

Create a state-funded pre-kindergarten program at least for poor and at-risk children, something that 39 other states have already done. The cost would probably be around $100 million a year.

Restore more of the $300 million in education funding that Daniels cut in December 2009. The legislature did restore some of the funding in 2011 and added money for full-day kindergarten this year. But education funding is still well short of what it was.

Hinnefeld isn’t the only one calling for restoration of programs Daniels cut after taking office in 2005. The Indiana Coalition for Human Services published a wish list for the state that Dan Carpenter wrote about in the Indianapolis Star.

Among other things, the coalition points out that the $2 billion surplus could be spent on rehiring teachers who lost their jobs, reinstating summer remediation for kids falling behind and restoring funding to a program that helps low-income students go to college.

“We talk about being in a better fiscal state than our neighbors, but most of the burden from this economic climate has been put on the backs of the most vulnerable,” David Sklar, coalition president, told Carpenter. “Our lost wages are as bad as anywhere in the country. Our poverty rate is as high as anybody’s.”

State Struggled Until Daniels ‘Brought Out The Big Knife’

There’s also a third option for the money at which Hinnefeld hints: Save it for a rainy day.

After all, the state also had a budget surplus in 1999, he writes:

Old-timers will remember that Indiana had budget reserves of nearly $2 billion in the late 1990s. Republican lawmakers squawked that that was ridiculous – the state wasn’t “a bank” and it needed to give the money back through massive tax cuts. Rep. Jeff Espich, the House GOP budget leader, insisted Indiana had a “structural surplus” of several hundred million dollars.

Democrats, especially Sen. Vi Simpson, now the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, urged caution, suggesting the state budget surplus was an artifact of the go-go economy of the Clinton years. Remember those?

Sure enough, the national economy went into recession, and Indiana’s surplus disappeared. The state struggled to balance the books until Daniels … brought out the big knife.

Of course, the automatic tax refunds are state law, making it unlikely anything will happen with the money other than what Gov. Daniels has already described. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette penned that editorial as a gentle reminder after gubernatorial candidates Mike Pence and John Gregg announced what they’d like to do with the surplus.

So, Hoosiers, what do you think? Would you rather see an automatic refund the next time you pay taxes, or could the state’s surplus be better spent on restoring funding to education?


  • Mrhuber84

    Return the money to education. What am I going to do with a paltry $100 except buy a tank or two of gasoline.

  • Gruff1776

    I agrree with Mrhuber84

  • Clark Fralick

    I wonder what the impact would be to the unemployment numbers if we hired back all the teachers, police and firemen who lost their jobs.

    • neoepistler

      What is it with teachers. police and firefighters that seem to make them so untouchable when it comes to layoffs? Give me a break~ I wonder what the impact would be if Hoosiers that worked for their money were hired back!

      • Corey D. McLaughlin

        Teachers, police, and firefighters work for the common good, for the communities they serve. When we lay them off, those communities suffer greatly. THAT is “what it is” with public servants, see.

        • Boatkitten

          Teachers, police, and firefighters are the only careers that THE PEOPLE still have a chance to control. All other jobs are totally in the control of private groups. Privatization — where the PEOPLE have no voice.

      • L755

        Are you implying that police and firefighters do not work
        for their money?
        Interesting. Be sure to tell that to a fireman or police
        officer after they have spent half the night dealing with an accident or a
        fire. By the way, what job do you have that is so much more difficult than that
        of the police and firefighters?

  • Pamela

    Give it back to Education!

  • Vasiliromanov

    The Man is screwing Higher Education too. Many IU workers have been laid off because of Mitch. If you want to hide money Mitch is your man.

    • DeniMull

      IU isn’t the only university Daniels has screwed. PU has gone through a painful restructuring of the supportive staff/employees with many positions and even whole departments being eliminated (these were much needed people/depts in clerical positions and/or physical facilities – you know, the people that keep the university running). And now he’s poised to really ream it deep to PU as its newest president. He has never been, nor will he ever be, an ally to Education at any level.

      • Boatkitten

        Just got back from orientation at IU — the ENTIRE program was run by students on “internship” and the communication was awful. Parents didn’t know where to go — kids missed placement tests they were supposed to take — there were two completely different “what to bring’ lists on the internet. It was a disaster — and is exactly what happens when “You take a knife to budgets” and then have to put inferior people on the job. We are doomed.

  • Sarah Laux-Woodall

    I love Mitch. He is a great leader and is smart with money. Also being conservative means not making programs to make people dependent, We honestly don’t need anymore of that we have enough as is of those programs. This includes education. I will go with whatever he wants though. I mean the money put for education would be okay but i would rather it get returned to me so i spend it the way i see fit.

    • SpecialEdMom

      I’ll pass that on to the mother I just spoke to who found out the school had to lay off the special ed teacher and they can’t get the software her son needs. But I’m sure your $100 is so much more important than that. We don’t want the Special Ed kids to become “dependent” on our taxes. Homelessness is so much better for them.

      • DeniMull

        You mean the software he needs that by law the school is required to provide or make arrangements with another school system to provide, all at the expense of the responsible school system (including transportation)? Yeah, thanks MItch. With his kind of economic help, we’ll all prosper! ‘S’cuse me now while I go vomit.

  • Furquis

    The comment preceding this one is an excellent example of why we need better education in this state.

  • Nottoocrabby

    When education budgets are cut, corrections budgets grow. Low education leads to high poverty and then to crime. Study after study has shown the way to help eliminate crime and dependency on welfare is through education.

  • Slashenik

    If you think about the effect an extra $100 would have on your life, compared with the impact that millions of dollars would have on the education system, I don’t know how anyone could say they agree with this move.

  • Fuzzy

    As mentioned, the money will be returned to taxpayers because of the law. If Hoosiers want the money given to education, they’ll need some kind of referendum or proposition to change the law to allow people to vote on where the money goes. Kind of time-consuming, though.

  • Mary Jane Jenkins

    Give it back to the people and let THEM make the donation of their choice so as NOT to further PROMOTE LIES and THIEVERY! I for one will donate mine, promise, but the way in which it was obtained, I cannot support.

  • neoepistler

    While I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had my wages cut in half since 2008. I have also gone through four stints of unemployment over the last four years as well. Oh and I’m trying to put a child through college. So. as much as I dislike the lie telling mitch, I will have to say. Indiana. you’re not my bank. you’re a thief! If I have donated anything extra to you. yes I’ll take it back! Sorry all of you poor children out there but the last time I checked there has always been poor and hungry children and there always will. Maybe fix some infrastructure? I would bet many a poor Indiana family may have a parent going back to work! Crazy~

    • Brattania

      Sorry — but we can’t fix the road you drive on. Budget cuts. You and the rest of the “Gimme my $100″ will have to use that $100 to buy a new set of rims. And don’t gripeif you find the window broken out of your truck either —- the budget cuts to schools including training for high risk students. Now those students can go back to being in the streets — where your truck is waiting for them. The people in this state don’t seem to have the gift of looking at future outcomes – only instant gratification. How’s that working for you?

  • Dadarnall

    I find it fascinating that tax receipts are referred to as “the money”, “it”….. The surplus money came from the taxpayer yet as has always been the case, someone or some group has there hand out touting the virtues of their program or cause. The amount of money spent on education in this country is staggering and what have the taxpayers received for all the increases over the past 30+ years. The money in large part has been used to fund teachers salaries and benefits under the guise that it’s “for the children”.

    • Hoosier Parent

      Dadarnall, you should do some research before posting.
      The money spent on education in America is not out of line with what is spent
      on education in other countries. In fact many spend more per pupil than the
      United States. Education has become much more challenging than it was 30+ years
      ago. In the past, if a student was a low achiever or not interested in
      education he simply dropped out, the schools of the past did not have to
      educate him. If a student was learning disabled the schools of the past did not
      even attempt to educate him. He was either placed in a room where he was simply
      “babysat” or denied being allowed in the school altogether. If a
      student was unable to behave “properly” because he was emotionally
      handicapped, he was simply expelled from school. Today public schools are
      striving to teach all of these students and many more that I did not mention in
      this post. This is why schools need money. Are the private schools educating
      students I have mentioned in the examples above? No. They hand pick their
      students. This ensures the academic success of the school.

      In regards to another comment concerning teacher
      salaries. These are people with masters degrees dealing with very challenging
      situations. If a decent salary was not provided the classroom would become a
      revolving door in terms of the person occupying the teaching position. No one
      would stay with the job for long. I know that I would not be able to. I doubt
      that Dadarnall could either.

  • Belkocm

    Protect our future and help our children. We need more qualified teachers, funds for classroom supplies and money to cover additional remediation. Poverty has been shown to be a factor in childhood literacy and children’s academic success. Please help us counteract this fact with extra money!

  • Hoosier Parent

    Mitch Daniels will not give the surplus money to the public schools of Indiana. He wants them to fail. This will vindicate his idea that private schools are superior and that all education should be privatized. I shudder to think what will happen to Purdue University in the next few years.

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