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Rich school, poor school

Ball State University economist Michael Hicks makes one of the most

absurd observations about school

funding I've seen yet in this column.

He argues that school districts with declining enrollment have

"distinct advantages" in that they have ample space, a

disproportionate share of school funding and ample time to accommodate

changes in funding. Rural schools face far fewer challenges than urban

and suburban districts, he states.

"It is the fast growing places where the resource challenge is most

dire," Hicks writes. "Successful and growing communities must always

play 'catch up' with school funding. These are also places where tax

dollars in general flow from (richer?) to poorer, typically rural regions of the state. It is easy to sense the frustration of a growing, successful

community."

He points to Hamilton County, where he spoke at a Chamber of

Commerce event on the eve of a general fund referendum vote. As he

predicted, the referendum passed easily:

"The reason was simple: school officials explained their needs

clearly and effectively, and had a track record of fiscal prudence."

Oh, please.

It doesn't take an economist to predict a school referendum is going

to pass in wealthy Hamilton County. The referendum passed easily

because the fast-growing suburban district has a much higher

percentage of households with school-age children and the household

income to easily pay more in property taxes than they are currently

paying. I was at a suburban school board meeting earlier this month

where parents were practically begging board members to pay more taxes

so programs wouldn't be cut. In the same district, parents at one

school have been told to stop holding fundraisers because more than

enough money has been raised for playground equipment and other items

supported by parents.

In Greenwood this weekend, parents at suburban Center Grove schools

will host a black-tie gala at the Indianapolis Westin with

tickets priced at $130 a person. The money goes to an "operating fund

for our paid staff, administrative expenses and monies for grants and

scholarships to CG teachers, students, and classrooms" and to procure

external grants and sponsorships. I don't know of any urban or rural

schools that could pull off such an affair.

As far as the "fiscal prudence" Hicks cites, I would bet any amount

of money the Hamilton County school district has state-of-the-art

facilities, including an athletic department that would make any

Division I college proud. It's districts like those, in fact, that

Gov. Mitch Daniels uses to paint all Indiana school districts as

wasteful.

If Hicks wants to learn about school challenges, he should visit some

urban and rural schools. Poverty is a challenge. Immigrant and refugee

students are a challenge. Aging buildings are challenge. Lack of

technology is a challenge.

Middle-class and upper-middle class parents eager to approve voter

referenda and pay more to support their fast-growing school districts

do not constitute a challenge.

Ironically, the premise of Hicks's piece is "good local governance

will support schools." Under the current Statehouse administration,

local governance of schools has been virtually eliminated. The General

AsSembly took control of almost all funding and the Indiana Department

of Education is taking unprecedented strongarm tactics against local

school districts. Local governance is essentially dead.

Ball State University economist Michael Hicks makes one of the most

absurd observations

http://www.bsu.edu/mcobwin/ibb/COMM/Y2010/web0419.htm about school

funding I've seen yet in this column.

He argues that school districts with shrinking enrollment have

"distinct advantages" in that they have ample space, a

disproportionate share of school funding and ample time to accommodate

changes in funding. Rural schools face far fewer challenges than urban

and suburban districts, he states.

"It is the fast growing places where the resource challenge is most

dire," Hicks writes. "Successful and growing communities must always

play 'catch up' with school funding. These are also places where tax

dollars in general flow from (richer?) to poorer, typically rural regions of the state. It is easy to sense the frustration of a growing, successful

community."

He goes on to point to Hamilton County, where he spoke at a Chamberof

Commerce event on the eve of a general fund referendum vote. As he

predicted, the referendum passed easily:

"The reason was simple: school officials explained their needs

clearly and effectively, and had a track record of fiscal prudence."

Oh, please.

It doesn't take an economist to predict a school referendum is going

to pass in wealthy Hamilton County. The referendum passed easily

because the fast-growing suburban district has a much higher

percentage of households with school-age children and the household

income to easily pay more in property taxes than they are currently

paying. I was at a suburban school board meeting earlier this month

where parents were practically begging board members to pay more taxes

so programs wouldn't be cut. At the same district, parents at one

school have been told to stop holding fundraisers because more than

enough money has been raised for playground equipment and other items

supported by parents.

In Greenwood this weekend, parents at suburban Center Grove schools

will host a black-tie gala at the Indianapolis Westin Hotel with

tickets priced at $130 a person. The money goes to an "operating fund

for our paid staff, administrative expenses and monies for grants and

scholarships to CG teachers, students, and classrooms" and procure

external grants and sponsorships. I don't know of any urban or rural

schools that could pull off such an affair.

As far as the "fiscal prudence" Hicks cites, I would bet any amount

of money the Hamilton County school district has state-of-the-art

facilities, including an athletic department that would make any

Division I college proud. It's districts like those, in fact, that

Gov. Mitch Daniels uses to paint all Indiana school districts as

wasteful.

If Hicks wants to learn about school challenges, he should visit some

urban and rural schools. Poverty is a challenge. Immigrant and refugee

students are a challenge. Aging buildings are challenge. Lack of

technology is a challenge.

Middle-class and upper-middle class parents eager to approve voter

referenda and pay more to support their fast-growing school districts

do not constitute a challenge.

Ironically, the premise of Hicks's piece is "good local governance

will support schools." Under the current Statehouse administration,

local governance of schools has been virtually eliminated. The General

AsSembly took control of almost all funding and the Indiana Department

of Education is taking unprecedented strongarm tactics against local

school districts. Local governance is essentially dead. Ball State University economist Michael Hicks makes one of the most

absurd observations

http://www.bsu.edu/mcobwin/ibb/COMM/Y2010/web0419.htm about school

funding I've seen yet in this column.

He argues that school districts with shrinking enrollment have

"distinct advantages" in that they have ample space, a

disproportionate share of school funding and ample time to accommodate

changes in funding. Rural schools face far fewer challenges than urban

and suburban districts, he states.

"It is the fast growing places where the resource challenge is most

dire," Hicks writes. "Successful and growing communities must always

play 'catch up' with school funding. These are also places where tax

dollars in general flow from (richer?) to poorer, typically rural regions of the state. It is easy to sense the frustration of a growing, successful

community."

He goes on to point to Hamilton County, where he spoke at a Chamberof

Commerce event on the eve of a general fund referendum vote. As he

predicted, the referendum passed easily:

"The reason was simple: school officials explained their needs

clearly and effectively, and had a track record of fiscal prudence."

Oh, please.

It doesn't take an economist to predict a school referendum is going

to pass in wealthy Hamilton County. The referendum passed easily

because the fast-growing suburban district has a much higher

percentage of households with school-age children and the household

income to easily pay more in property taxes than they are currently

paying. I was at a suburban school board meeting earlier this month

where parents were practically begging board members to pay more taxes

so programs wouldn't be cut. At the same district, parents at one

school have been told to stop holding fundraisers because more than

enough money has been raised for playground equipment and other items

supported by parents.

In Greenwood this weekend, parents at suburban Center Grove schools

will host a black-tie gala at the Indianapolis Westin Hotel with

tickets priced at $130 a person. The money goes to an "operating fund

for our paid staff, administrative expenses and monies for grants and

scholarships to CG teachers, students, and classrooms" and procure

external grants and sponsorships. I don't know of any urban or rural

schools that could pull off such an affair.

As far as the "fiscal prudence" Hicks cites, I would bet any amount

of money the Hamilton County school district has state-of-the-art

facilities, including an athletic department that would make any

Division I college proud. It's districts like those, in fact, that

Gov. Mitch Daniels uses to paint all Indiana school districts as

wasteful.

If Hicks wants to learn about school challenges, he should visit some

urban and rural schools. Poverty is a challenge. Immigrant and refugee

students are a challenge. Aging buildings are challenge. Lack of

technology is a challenge.

Middle-class and upper-middle class parents eager to approve voter

referenda and pay more to support their fast-growing school districts

do not constitute a challenge.

Ironically, the premise of Hicks's piece is "good local governance

will support schools." Under the current Statehouse administration,

local governance of schools has been virtually eliminated. The General

AsSembly took control of almost all funding and the Indiana Department

of Education is taking unprecedented strongarm tactics against local

school districts. Local governance is essentially dead.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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