INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana State Teachers Association is calling on legislators to commit more funding for public schools. They said public schools are under funded and is disproportionately giving money to private and voucher-accepting schools.
"A place like Anderson, what we are going to see is we'll be lucky to break even for next year's budget," Randy Harrison, a teacher at Anderson Community Schools said. "We we will probably lose about two percent for the 2023 budget."
"For next year, we are projected to be $700,000 down. And then two years out, we are projected to be $1 million down," Shannon Adams, a teacher at Martinsville High School said.
Adams said if they experience budget cuts, "It's almost as if there are several leaks in the dam we only have two Band-Aids, and we're doing everything we can. But ultimately, what that's going to be for Martinsville is a building issue, or it's a teacher retention issue, or it's a programming issue, and our community doesn't want that. They want their kids in our schools."
"So arts, the fine arts, the vocational skills and all those things that we think makes a solid graduate from Anderson Community Schools, you look to preserve those because it's what's best for the kid," Harrison said. "But yet, you've got a budget crisis."
Under the Senate's budget plan, students from a family of four, earning nearly $110,000 per year, could be eligible for vouchers to attend a private or charter voucher-accepting school. The problem is, public school teachers argue the state is funding the voucher program more than public schools — using public dollars.
“When the charter schools and the vouchers schools are getting eight to nine percent increases and we are getting flat lined or losing 2% over two years, that is in its own right a travesty,” Harrison said. "But they do it with smoke in mirrors language and wording.”
“Once we start to deteriorate public education to try to fund a private system, I think this is really just a slippery slope,” Adams added.
They said legislators need to balance the needs of the 90% of students in the state who attend public schools, versus the 10% who attend private.
“The fewest percentage of Hoosier families choose vouchers schools, private schools and or charter schools, but those entities get the bigger chunk of the dollars,” Harrison said.
“If you’re going to give a 20-some percent increase to vouchers, then why not give a 20-some percent increase to public education?” Janet Chandler, a teacher at Hamilton Southeastern High School asked. “Why not equalize that type of idea?”
They argue when money goes to virtual charter schools or vouchers, that’s money getting taken away from public schools or improving teacher pay, which was not addressed at all in the state budget.
“Should the legislature fail to make a significant investment in our public schools and educators this session, we will lose good teachers who were already contemplating leaving the profession for other careers,” Keith Gambill, ISTA President said.
“Do we want our kids to be seen? And do you want all kids to have opportunity?” Adams asked. “And do we want all of our kids to at least be able to have the chance to reach for every single dream that they have? And I think that’s what public education does. I think it guarantees that we at least get every kid the same good chance.”