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Expert: State’s Education Formula Needs Attention

The state’s education funding formula generated much debate during this year’s legislative session. But one expert says he’s concerned about the accountability of the public school system, which, he says, should not downplay equal opportunity for all students.

Indiana University Professor Barry Bull says a sagging economy has led to an increase in demand for government services from school systems, but funds are tight.

“Indiana does a very good job of delivering additional resources to schools with children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Now whether those resources are sufficient to make up for the disadvantages that children have is a cause for concern,” he said.

Bull also emphasizes that Indiana should be proud of the current formula, which has been in place for more than 15 years.

“It also needs to consider whether additional resources can be available for disadvantage children,” Bull said.

Bull says he is also concerned about the privatization of schools in the future, since schools are expected to meet state standards by 2014 or face a takeover. Bull says that could come to mean all public schools receive failing grades or are judged to need improvement.

Still, he says, restricting the system could be beneficial.

“The opportunity may exist for us to examine the wisdom of the way that we have held schools accountable, and perhaps shift to something that is more localized and focused on individual and community aspirations,” he said.

Bull further cites that instead of “labeling all schools as failing we’ll see that the accountability system that we have put in place are the problem and not necessarily schools.”

Bull says the state’s leadership is at a crossroads in determining what the state’s educational structure should emphasize, but takes an optimistic view of the future, saying some possible changes hold promise.

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