I appreciate the state legislators’ work on the final budget that passed which increased funding for schools. This was a good session for us financially, and I am thankful. I also align with legislators’ desires to increase teacher compensation and I believe that was a significant motivation for bumping the tuition support to schools. Teachers deserve the assurance of adequate compensation over the course of their careers.
In the recently released budget estimates, Mt. Vernon Schools are expected to receive a 2.8% increase in tuition support for 2020 and 2.1% increase for 2021. Additionally, through the governor’s creative use of the state’s cash balance to buy down the pension fund, our school is now able to decrease our payments to the state retirement fund by approximately $250,000 (0.9% of our revenue). That is real money that we can use! It is not all good news though. Our February student count will have a negative financial impact. Next year will be the first year that the state attaches dollars to the February count, which for us will be a decrease in funding of approximately $110,000 (0.4% of our revenue) due to only capturing a half-year of revenues for students who graduate in December. Let me break down the math for you that we are using in Mt. Vernon to plan our future budgets.
2020: 2.8 + 0.9 – 0.4 = 3.3% Budget Increase
2021: 2.1 + 0 (captured in 2020) – 0 (accounted for in 2020) = 2.1% Budget Increase
2020 & 2021: (3.3 + 2.1) / 2 years = 2.7% Average Budget Increase
That indeed is good news for Mt. Vernon, but it is not great news. Great news would be the legislature doing this for many years in a row. Since 2006, Indiana has slipped from ranking 22nd to ranking 36th among 51 states and District of Columbia in per pupil expenditures. Additionally, state funding of education is not keeping up with inflation. Our state is woefully short in proportionally increasing funding to education. The state’s general fund has grown by 21% over the last several years while the funding for education has only grown 12%. We are lagging behind and we are all feeling it.
Every once in a while, I hit a tee shot 200 yards down the center of the fairway. That doesn’t mean I played a great game. This was a good legislative session for Mt. Vernon’s finances; however, we are not getting a 5% increase that legislators would lead you to believe. I believe this is a good start in properly funding schools; however, only multiple budget sessions with appropriate funding will truly allow us to improve.