Community leaders from four Michiana counties call for more education funding in Indiana

NOW: Community leaders from four Michiana counties call for more education funding in Indiana

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WARSAW, Ind. - Business, academic, law enforcement and political leaders from four Michiana counties, Elkhart, St. Joseph, Marshall and Kosciusko Counties, gathered at Warsaw Community High School Tuesday to call on Indiana legislators to put more funding into public schools. Following a presentation by Ball State's Director for the Center for Business and Economic Research Michael Hicks, those community leaders signed a declaration of support for more public school funding, a declaration organizers said would be given to state legislators on Thursday.

"Since 2010, the state is now spending a full 7% less per student on public education of all types that we did a decade ago," Hicks said. "So, after a year of long economic growth, the longest expansion in US history, Indiana has under-invested in its schooling of all types."

Many community leaders there agreed like Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson.

"Public Education is a core economic driver for creating strong cities, towns and neighborhoods," Roberson said. "This erosion of the state's financial commitment damages that foundation."

Penn Harris Madison Superintendent Jerry Thacker also supported more public education funding.

"The governor's proposed increase in education spending made us hopeful, but now, we are disheartened that so much of this increase would be directed to voucher funding at the expense of public schools," Thacker said.

A Warsaw elementary school student, Savannah Perry, also spoke in favor of more funding.

"Give the systems the funding they need to be the strongest in the nation," Perry said.

Hicks said it was urgent people contact their state legislators about getting more funding for schools because the current session ends in less than a month. The Indiana House already passed a two-year budget for the state. That budget, un examination by the State Senate, gives 438 million more dollars to public schools over the next two years, but Hicks said that wasn't nearly enough.

That gap in spending is about 1.2 to 1.3 billion dollars with a 'b,'" Hicks said. "So, you guys are worried about this 150 million dollars in shift to private schools this session. I understand that concern. I'm telling you you need to add a zero to the problem."

South Bend Community School Corporation (SBCSC) recently had a referendum pass that helped keep it out of a deficit, but SBCSC Director of Development Dean Moore said the district needed more.

"We were very happy that our voters helped pass our referendum so that we could keep some tax dollars in our school corporation, but that really just kept us at sustained level," Moore said. "We need to be able to grow and continue to offer extra programming for our students."

With the Indiana General Assembly still debating the state budget proposal, Moore said he's encouraged by the diverse crowd of support for public education.

"It means everything, and really, it's about time," Moore said. "It's going to take a coalition of everybody across the State of Indiana. This is a great start with our four counties, but we need everybody across the state to come together to support public education and make sure our voices are heard because we're advocating for the children."

Indiana legislators were not available for comment on this story.

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