Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

IPS Will Challenge State Funding Figures In Ongoing Takeover Fight

Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana

IPS superintendent Eugene White at a school board meeting in August 2011.

Indianapolis Public Schools officials will appeal a State Board of Education decision the district says erroneously awards too much money to the management teams in charge of four takeover schools.

The board allocated $13.9 to the schools based on September 2011 enrollment figures, but Superintendent Eugene White says that’s about $5 million too much.

He says the takeover schools will receive funding for an estimated 1,672 students who have elected to transfer to other IPS schools.

And that’s money IPS won’t get, White says.

“We could have a lot of students that we don’t get funding for. And that’s gonna place a burden on us and it’s not gonna be fair,” White told StateImpact at a board meeting last month. “They have the money, we have the students. I know the cliche about the money following the child — many years, that could hurt IPS. Now, we want the money to follow the child.”

A better solution, he says, would be to calculate funding based on enrollment totals this September, though state officials maintain they’re treating the takeover schools just like everyone else.

The Indianapolis Star’s Scott Elliott explains the state’s funding formula this way:

Funding is one of the trickier and more controversial issues to sort out. In Indiana, school funding flows from the state directly to school districts, which allocate the funds to individual schools. School district funding is determined each fall when enrollment is officially counted. Those counts, usually taken in September, are refined during the fall and finalized by Jan. 1. Funding payments are then made monthly over the next calendar year.

Usually, Elliott writes, enrollment is fairly steady from one year to the next, or at least similar enough that any increases or decreases in student population sort themselves out during the spring semester.

But in this case, the difference in enrollment could be dramatic. Last fall, there were 3,810 students at the four takeover schools on the second Friday in September, the day counts are always taken.

According to an IPS press release, enrollment in the charter program is closer to 2,138 — based on current $7,331 per pupil funding, that should give operators of the takeover schools about $7.8 million. White says the management teams will get a windfall while IPS is left scrambling to educate students whose state money has gone elsewhere.

At one point, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said the lack of cooperation from IPS during the takeover process could warrant the state withholding money from the district. But the state has also indicated that IPS could see some of that funding return to its schools but has been vague about what that would look like.

“I can’t take off the table the possibility the district could receive some money back at some point,” Assistant State Superintendent Dale Chu told Elliott. “You never say anything is impossible.”

Students at the four takeover schools — Emma Donnan Middle School and Manual, Howe and Arlington high schools — had until February to decide where they wanted to attend classes in the fall. The state assumed students who didn’t make a choice would stay at the takeover schools under the new management. That process was rife with complications.

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