By John Sittler
Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz called on lawmakers Thursday to restore more than $300 million in previous education cuts and then boost total funding by no less than 1.7 percent in each of the next two years.
"The future prosperity of Indiana depends on additional investments in tuition support," she said. "The restoration of the prior cuts during the economic recession to K-12 education would be a significant step in the right direction."
Gov. Mike Pence's budget has proposed a modest increase in education funding that's meant to incentivize achievement in public schools.
In Fiscal Year 2014 - which begins on July 1, 2013 and runs through June 30, 2014 - overall education funding would increase 1 percent under the Pence plan. In 2015, it would increase another 1 percent, but that money would be earmarked for schools that meet performance-based goals.
Ritz said that's not enough.
"Minimal investments in education, although welcomed, don't match inflation, nor make up for the cuts to K-12," Ritz said.
Ritz said her team has not calculated the cost of restoring the $300 million in cuts plus the 1.7 percent annual increase in funding. She based the latter figure on the inflation rate as it's determined by the Consumer Price Index for Social Security.
But a 1.7 percent increase in education funding in each of the next two years would cost a total of roughly $220 million. Combined with the $300 million in previous cuts, that could bring the Ritz's total proposal to more than $520 million over two years.
Currently, Indiana has more than $2 billion in the bank and is projected to finish the current fiscal year with $176 million more than expected.
But Pence wants to use some of that money to cut the state's individual income tax rate by 10 percent. When fully implemented, that will take about $520 million out of the state's revenue stream.
Already, House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, has said he expects the General Assembly to boost education funding more than Pence proposed. But House Republicans have not yet released their budget plan. That's expected to come as early as next week.
John Sittler is a reporter at TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.