Muncie Community Schools will reduce their staff by 37 positions by next school year, through retirements, resignations and a few layoffs. The reduction comes after years of financial struggles for the district.
Superintendent Steven Baule said the district lost around $29 million after property tax caps and the new school funding formula.
Last year, the school board voted to end bus transportation by 2018 because of a protected tax law that diverted the district’s funds away from transportation.
The latest budget issues will affect staff, including teachers. Bale said he hopes to lay off fewer than 10 teachers, after they find out who is retiring and resigning – positions he will not replace.
Baule said the district can save money by replacing interventionists, staff who pull kids out of class to work on specific skills, with people who aren’t certified teachers. He said these employees are supplementing the child’s education so they don’t need to be certified, even though they would prefer it.
“That’s no different in what you see in healthcare today,” Baule said. “You don’t see the doctor all the time, you might see a physician’s assistant or you might see a nurse practitioner, it’s the exact same concept.”
Baule blames recent policy changes on the financial situation in his district, but some legislators don’t agree.
“Property tax caps should have had little impact on that funding stream,” said Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis.
Behring said the legislature took measures to protect schools, when they put the property tax caps in place in 2008, through the state’s school funding formula.
This formula, updated during the 2015 legislative session, allocates money to students, not districts. So districts that draw more students, get more money. But districts like Muncie, which are seeing declining enrollment numbers, do not have that protection.
Behning said that is only fair since a district that is losing kids doesn’t need the same amount of resources to educate fewer students. And he said districts can also levy tax referenda to increase property taxes.
But Baule said the state should be able to help out more.
“If the state doesn’t change how it funds education, it’s really making a statement that they don’t feel public education has value,” Baule said.