Rural School Districts in Indiana Hurt by New Funding Formula

He felt it was the only decision he could make.  He stepped down as the district’s number-one administrator in hopes of helping his cash-strapped budget.

Medora Community Schools Corp. Superintendent John Reed resigned Wednesday after his school board accepted his resignation.  This small, 270-student rural school district is facing cuts mandated by the Indiana legislature.  “I told the board that to maintain your programs – all that you offer the kids – the only thing that’s logical is that you do something at the administrative level.  And that’s when I gave them my resignation,” said Superintendent Reed. 

Although the two-year state budget included some additional funding for public schools, it made changes to the school funding formula that will cut dollars to smaller, mostly rural districts with declining enrollments starting in 2012.  Two grant programs, one of them directly assisting rural schools, were eliminated.  John Ellis, director of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents said it “certainly appears” the policymaker actions are aimed at forcing smaller districts to consolidate. 

The Indiana Department of Education does not agree with Ellis’ statement.  Stephanie Sample, the DOE spokesperson said “If we’re talking about a push for consolidation, I think our primary concern is not the number of students in the schools – that’s not our focus.  The department’s focus has always been on the services that the districts are able to provide the students.”

Reed said the decision was very difficult, but he’s glad that he could offer between $50,000 and $123,000 a year for the district depending on how it decides to handle his duties.  The district won’t receive any state increased funding over the next two years and the current teachers have already taken a 5 percent pay cut. 

Denny Costerison, executive director of the Indiana Association of School Business Officials, said the actions of the state legislature will “put some real hurt into the smallest school corporations.  It definitely was not in favor of small school districts – and definitely was not in favor of school districts with declining enrollments.”He felt it was the only decision he could make.  He stepped down as the district’s number-one administrator in hopes of helping his cash-strapped budget.

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