The Indiana Department of Education submitted its budget request for the next legislative session this week, asking for a three percent increase in school funding for the upcoming biennial budget cycle.
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz says her department will use the increased funding to help offset the cost of textbooks and instructional materials for parents. Currently, Indiana is only one of eight states that puts the financial burden of textbook rentals on the student.
“I am very concerned with the costs that parents pay associated with the education of their children,” Ritz said in a statement. “Our constitution provides for a general and uniform school system that is equally open to all. That is why we have requested funding for textbook rentals and instructional materials for all students. By funding these at the state level, we can guarantee that all districts have equitable resources for texts while also giving parents a much needed financial break.”
Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Luke Kenley says a three percent increase for the IDOE would be around $200 million, a percentage increase the legislature hasn’t granted to any government agency recently.
“We haven’t seen inflation in the economy anywhere near three percent in the last six or seven years,” Kenley said. “So we haven’t been able to give increases that large on a percentage basis, we thought we did a lot last time by doing two percent.”
Kenley says in the last budget cycle the legislature made education a priority, granting a two percent increase to K-12 needs and a six percent increase to higher education. But looking toward this next legislative session, Kenley can’t predict whether a three percent increase for education is plausible, since so many outside factors contribute to budget decisions, including a revenue and Medicaid forecast for the state.
“If the Medicaid forecast says you’re going to need a certain amount of money then we will not have any discretion as to whether to raise that money or not, we’ll have to come up with money,” Kenley said. “So that always have an impact on everything else int he budget.”
The budget will be part of the 2015 legislative session and voted on by the General Assembly next year.