Friday, December 18, 2009

Dude, Where's Our Surplus?

For the past couple of years, Mitch Daniels has moaned about the imperative of keeping a $1 billion surplus in the state coffers. He's made it a centerpiece of his budget requests, and, part of the reason the General Assembly went to a special session last time around was due to the preservation of this surplus. That $1 billion was untouchable, and he wouldn't sign a budget that didn't include it.

So, the General Assembly, anxious to deliver a budget to keep the state running, went back to the drawing board and hammered out a budget agreement that compromised on the school funding formula and made certain that $1 billion was left for a rainy day. The budget was passed. Oh, Happy Day! Well...not quite.

Now, Governor Daniels tells us that the $1 billion surplus is gone. poof Just like that. The state's been in such dire need lately that the surplus vanished, and he didn't even tell us that it disappeared.

Don't you think we deserve more? Don't you believe that someone needs to get an accounting of where this hard fought $1 billion went and why it no longer exists in the state budget. If it was set aside and was not to be touched so that we could have a rainy day fund...when did it start raining.

While we are given pithy yet somewhat snarky answers, K-12 education is being slashed to the bone. Folks, we can sit here and gripe about how schools spend the cash that's given to them, but when you can't even set a budget...that's scary. Maybe there are other answers out there as to how schools can save money and keep teachers in the classroom. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm one of those concerned teachers that is frightened for the state of education in Indiana right now. When the funding is cut so close to the quick, it's the students that are the ones paying the price as their education suffers. Schools will continue to do the best they can with what they are given, and, just maybe, someday soon will emerge leaner and meaner and ready to fight. Public schools will work this out and make it work for kids. I know that much for a fact.

Then again, public education has never meant much to Mitch Daniels. If it did, that $1 billion would have gone to education. If it did, he needs to show us where it did and why that $1 billion is gone. I may be off base here, and maybe I missed something. I just feel like Indiana students, parents, teachers, and communities are at least owed an explanation as to where that money went, and why Johnny might be in a government class with 40 other students in a room designed for 25 next year because his school district couldn't afford to pay to replace a teacher that retired.

Of course, I think these little tidbits are minor to Team Daniels. They are more worried about discipline issues, disrespecting the teaching profession, and whether a half day is allowable. Forget the great series that Matt Tully is writing in the Star about Manual High School. Let's beat down the schools more instead of making what they need a priority. It's not with this Governor or the Republican-controlled Indiana Senate. Under Mitch Daniels, the money is gone, and schools now have no way to get it back other than the less-than-desirable referendum.

So, Anderson has to consolidate its two high schools into one school on one side of town or the other. Formerly affluent Franklin Township is proposing shuttering schools, and Decatur Township is in such trouble that it's thinking about axing the highly-successful Decatur Discovery Academy and the Challenger Center. Schools and programs are being slashed, and kids are losing out. The Governor's explanation is the same as his explanation for what happened to the campaign cash he got from Tim Durham. He says the money's been spent. On what Mitch...that's all we want to know. Where did that $1 billion go? Did it even exist in the first place?


Anonymous said...

Franklin Twp brought on it's own problems with that football stadium. Unfortunately many other systems who have tried to manage their monies well will suffer also. How can one billion dollars disappear and why wasn't the public told?

guy77money said...

What happened was having two perfect storms hit at the same time. The state slashes property taxes and the economy tanks. Franklin Twsp and Hamilton Southeastern both built schools in anticipation of continued growth which is still ongoing in the two school districts.Thank god not at the same pace as before the housing bust. Franklin Twsp has done a great job slashing the budget since the new superintendent has been on the job. Even with massive budget cuts without a referendum they still will be in hot water. This is only the beginning, I have it from a real good source that there are number of school districts that could be facing massive budget cuts,lay offs and even possible bankruptcy by 2011. I am curious why I haven't heard any legislators come out in support of the schools? I haven't heard ideas on how to change the funding of schools or even working with them to solve some of the budget problems. Do these guys only come out at election time? This isn't a Republican or Democrat problem it's all our problem. As for referendums they don't work well. I know of a number of schools in Ohio that can't get them passed and the teachers actually hope that kids don't show so their class rooms are not over flowing. Yes services can be consolidated (Butler County in Ohio has one department that buys all of the computer equipment for the whole county, but I still don't think that will be enough to stem the tide. I went to the board meeting at FT and they said straight out that if they need more money that they would cut all busing of students to school. I'm curious Jon have you had any conversations with any office holders on the school funding problems?

Anonymous said...

Simple math.

The new forecast shows Indiana will take in $1.8 billion less than what lawmakers spent in the budget.

The governor has already cut $500 million between July and present (this includes previous announcements like 20% reversions from agencies and 6% cuts for universities).

There is $1 billion in reserves.

$500M + $1B = $1.5B

Remember the shortfall is $1.8B

So $1.8B - $1.5B = $300M

That's where you get the number that we need $300 million from K-12 to help keep the budget balanced.