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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.

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