Here, there, and everywhere

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$700,000  County Building Plaza Project
$700,000 County Building Plaza Project

Lots of things have been happening here, there and everywhere.   Hot topics include Indiana’s surplus, education and local city & county events.  Let’s go on a journey.

In 1998, Indiana had a record surplus of $2 billion, taxes were cut and then Governor O’Bannon increased spending for K-12 and higher education, and additional expenditures.   Circa 2000 the State of Indiana saw the surplus depleted and on the way to losing 120,000 manufacturing jobs.  Tax revenue fell and there was no cushion for Indiana to lean on.

Fast forward to 2014 and a budget surplus.  The Democrats are mad as heck about this, claiming the books are cooked.  Well, we’ll see if we are still operating in the black in 2016, unlike 2000.  I suppose the good old days of being broke are more attractive.  I dunno.

The biggest complaint?   The education system not properly funded.  However, according to the latest NEA report:

PERCENTAGE OF REVENUE FOR PUBLIC K–12 SCHOOLS FROM STATE GOVERNMENTS, 2012–13  Indiana ranks 13 nationally. Or up two points from 2011-2012

PERCENTAGE OF REVENUE FOR PUBLIC K–12 SCHOOLS FROM LOCAL GOVERNMENTS, 2012–13  Indiana ranks 36 nationally.  Unchanged from 2011-2012.

According to NEA reports, teacher’s salaries began to decline as far back as 1997.  No time to sift through the data on administrative salaries and to be honest,  the time it took to read the current and previous reports was excruciating enough.

One indicator showing improvement with Indiana Public Schools came from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Book.  Indiana is up eight points from 34 to 26 nationally.  Do we still have room for improvement?  Absolutely!

If past educational reforms don’t produce, examine why, make the changes and continue on.  Funding is beneficial,  but, without an action plan, it’s just spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

Governor O’Bannon wanted all day kindergarten.  Even with the increased funding under his administration, it never materialized.  You need strong legislative leadership for change to an antiquated educational system.  People don’t like change.  In fact, every living organism must change to survive.  Education can be considered a living organism.

Further advancements included eliminating the “deghoster” funding and legislative changes:

These programs, while beneficial for districts with declining enrollments, left less money to be distributed among the remaining districts. Because the formula was using an average of past enrollments, instead of current enrollments, to determine per pupil funding, the money was not directly following the students. Therefore, the formula disadvantaged school districts with quickly growing enrollments. In short, Indiana school districts with rapidly growing student populations found themselves receiving less General Fund money per pupil, while simultaneously experiencing higher costs.

Source: Eliminating K-12 Public School Student Transportation as a Cost-Saving Measure Author(s): Lori G. Boyland and Walter D. Bourke Affiliation: Ball State University and Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents

 

Poverty plays a big part in education, and education plays a major role in successful economic development.  Indiana lost 120,000 jobs circa 2000 with Delaware County seeing 12,000 over one decade.   We must get our people working again.  It’s not an either or thing, it is two important components required to make the State of Indiana more attractive, education more effective.  Regardless of what you hear, data, reports and economists overwhelmingly agree, education and economic growth go hand-in-hand.

Delaware County, is hovering on the brink, in fact may already be arrived at financial disaster.  It’s been brewing since 2009.  Borrowing $4 million just to keep the doors open, with payback using money we don’t have.    We are in big trouble and there is no plan, has been no plan to pull us out of the rut. We’re standing still and going nowhere.

Even with the gains we have seen elsewhere, Central Indiana is singled out:

But progress is fragile, particularly because of the continuing economic challenges that exist in central Indiana with high rates of child poverty and unemployment numbers that for the past several years have consistently exceeded the statewide average.

Source: High child poverty casts pall over gains in Hoosier schools

The City of Muncie seems to be the only area unaffected and personally, after reviewing data, I’m not sure how that’s possible.  So much is happening so quickly it reminds me of the year before the housing bubble burst.  It’s a concern for some, others applaud it.

Not much transparency in our local government on how this is all being funded, no information on why the city wanted to buy school property.

Speaking of transparency, most of us were aware of the transparency portal detailing local budgets and Indiana has launched a new website promising to be more detailed, more user friendly.   The previous website could be a little difficult to navigate at times, still if offered what local governments did not, a look into city and county budget information.

The new website serves as an expansion of Indiana’s focus on transparency. The state’s website was recently named the most transparent state government site by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Baltzell said that, while it is nice to be the most transparent, the website still needs to be more user-friendly.

State Launches New Website In Hope Of Improving Government Transparency

Click here to view the new website.

Muncie Community Schools $6.5 million referendum

That’s all for tonight, folks.

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