Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Report: Indiana’s Funding For Rural Schools Is Poor

A bus waiting outside Hose Elementary School in Crawfordsville.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Transportation funding in rural communities increased Indiana's priority ranking in the report.

The Rural School and Community Trust released its annual report Monday on the status of rural schools in the United States.

The report looked at five components of rural schools: Importance, Student and Family Diversity, Socioeconomic Challenges, Educational Policy Context and Educational Outcomes.

Overall, Indiana got a priority ranking of 19. Meaning of all the states Indiana’s rural schools and districts are in the top 20 for needing improvements.

Of those five categories, Educational Policy Context was rated as in “crucial” condition, the most severe rating the report gives a sub-category.

So what does that mean?

The authors of the report write that to rate a state on Educational Policy Context, “we used indicators that describe characteristics of the public schooling system that are the result of policy decisions.” Including factors that specifically affect a student’s achievement in the classroom and their well being. For example, how much money states spend on rural students.

Between state and local funding for rural schools, Indiana spends $5,111 per student for instructional purposes, which is one of the lowest in the country. That compares to nearly $8,000 per student being spent in some states.

Another funding component in this category is what Indiana spends on transportation in rural districts compared to what’s spent on learning. Indiana’s ratio is the seventh worst in the country, $8.88 is spent for instructional use for every dollar of transportation.

Transportation is a major concern for rural districts in Indiana, because with limited funds there are fewer buses to travel a larger distance and pick up students and longer bus rides for students, making their school day longer.

As we reported after the primary election earlier this month, many smaller districts are trying to pass referenda to widen the gap between transportation spending and instructional funds.

One bright spot in this area of the report: the ratio of state revenue to schools per local dollar. Indiana’s ratio is considered good compared to other states, with the state providing $1.47 for every dollar the district provides.


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