By: Wes Culver (R-Goshen, Ind.)

Unless they work in education or state government, not many people know or understand the complicated formula that determines how much funding each school corporation receives each year.

Each school corporation receives a specific dollar amount per student. So, two schools with the same number of students will receive a different dollar amount because the amount per student is different.

The amount per student can be immense. The lowest amount received by a school corporation in 2008 was $5,414 per student in Northwest Allen School Corp. The school corporation with the highest rate per-student was Gary School Corp., receiving $9,010 per student.

Several community members have voiced their concern with this variation. Why, they ask, does the state give more money per student to some schools and less to others?

Generally, tuition support for schools is tied to the numbers of students — “average daily membership” in bureaucratic terms — in each school district. As such, districts with declining enrollments face decreasing amounts of tuition support.

However, districts are still provided partial funding for students who have left the district, which is known as “ghosting.” Ghosting may occur when a student was enrolled at the start of the school year and then left sometime during that year.

Keep in mind, school districts have five years before funding is completely phased out for that student — 100 percent the first year, 80 percent the second, then 60 percent, 40 percent and, in the fifth year, 20 percent.

School systems with declining student enrollments have benefited greatly from this method, while those with growing enrollments have suffered, even though both face the same problem of changing enrollment.

The governor’s budget wants to finally end ghosting to make sure the money follows the student. If the student is not there, the money for that student wouldn’t be, either. However, the House Democrat’s budget proposal includes the ghosting formula.

A declining enrollment creates no more problems than an increasing enrollment. Officials from schools with declining enrollments say the students leaving are not from one class, but rather a few from every classroom; therefore, they cannot get rid of any teachers. However, neither can a growing school corporation place all the new students in one classroom and hire one teacher.

Growing schools are forced to handle their greater enrollments by redistricting to most efficiently handle students; declining schools should do the same.

These are not easy problems for superintendents to resolve. But that is what their job is and why we put them in those positions. Tough decisions aren’t always easy for businesses and families either, but they have to make them when their income declines.

I don’t think we should ask our schools to do anything we wouldn’t do as families and business people. They should not be exempt from the struggles everyone else faces.

Wes Culver (R-Goshen) represents House District 49 in the Indiana House of Representatives.  His website is www.electwesculver.com.

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