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School Funding Fix Advances To House

The Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis.

Legislation that would fix a school funding shortfall unanimously passed out of a key General Assembly committee Wednesday.

The proposal would make up to $75 million dollars available this and next academic school year.

Public schools currently face a $16 million deficit but lawmakers expect it to grow earlier next year when more data on students is available. Another shortfall for the 2018-19 school year could also happen, they say.

The funding gap was caused by a miscalculation in school enrollment. Around 6,300 more students attended public schools than expected this year.

During Wednesday’s House Ways and Means committee meeting, bill co-author Rep. Sally Siegrist, R-Indianapolis, framed the funding gap as a win against charter schools, virtual schools and private schools that accept taxpayer-funded vouchers.

Siegrist says the state’s enrollment projections at those choice schools were higher than actual enrollment this year by 9.9 percent for charter schools to less than 2 percent for virtual charter schools.

“The good news is that our public schools are growing,” she says. “The fears of an exodus to choice schools seem to be unfounded at this point.”

House Bill 1001 would free up to $25 million from the school tuition reserve fund in 2017-18 and another $50 million in 2018-19 to cover the lack of funding approved in the 2016-2018 biennium spending plan.

HB 1001 is expected to be amended in the full House Thursday.

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