The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, March 12, 2019 1:00 am

Poverty adjustment a negative for FWCS

To lose $5.5 million as fewer kids get assistance

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – New data released Monday show fewer students statewide are receiving assistance, which in turn hurts school funding for some districts, including Fort Wayne Community Schools.

Built into the complicated school funding formula is a complexity index for each district. It consists of students and families in each district receiving welfare or food stamps or caring for foster children.

The theory is that students from less advantaged homes take more resources to educate. That complexity index is then multiplied by a base complexity amount to reach each district's extra funding.

But House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said having fewer kids in poverty means less money will go to that portion of the formula.

Huston said the same amount of money is going to schools but instead of complexity it will shift to increase the foundation amount for all students.

The analysis shows Fort Wayne Community Schools losing $5.5 million in complexity funding in 2020 compared to 2019. Overall the district will see only 0.3 percent funding growth in the first year of the House budget and 1.6 percent in the second year.

FWCS enrollment is expected to remain flat.

Kathy Friend, the local district's chief financial officer, said the district isn't seeing the large decrease in complexity that the data show. But even if there were a drop in state aid to students of the district, she noted the base rate for complexity hasn't been increased along with inflation.

“Complexity is more than poverty,” she said, noting the large special-education and English learners' population the district has. Although there are separate pots of money for that, she said they aren't enough to cover the programs' costs.

And Friend said the complexity data previously included items other than poverty, such as single-parent homes.

The new data show Southwest Allen County Schools' funding rising 4.9 percent the first year and 3.3 percent the second year; Northwest Allen County Schools' going up 5.6 percent the first year and 4.5 percent the second; East Allen County Schools rising 3.5 percent and 3.3 percent. All three of those districts are expected to see enrollment increases, and with new students comes additional money.

The budget is now before the Senate, which could change the formula. A new two-year budget must pass by April 30.

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