By Andrea McCann Times Sentinel Managing Editor
Zionsville Times Sentinel
---- — The state's school funding formula is leaving Zionsville students behind, according to Zionsville Community Schools Superintendent Scott Robison and Chief Financial Officer Mike Shafer. While "the house" is fine at the moment, "the foundation" is crumbling, Shafer said in a recorded PowerPoint presentation shown by Robison at the school board meeting Monday, Sept. 9. In the current fiscal year, Zionsville lags behind the state average in per-pupil funding by $439. By 2015, that gap is estimated to be $828 — $4.75 million for the year, or the equivalent of 75 teacher salaries. "We're pretty proud of being able to do with the funding we have, but how long can we do it?" Shafer said in an interview Friday, Sept. 6. He said the corporation will lose the ability to keep doing what its doing with continued funding loss. Increasing enrollment and decreasing base funding is the heart of the issue, he said. The new school funding formula, which significantly altered the mechanism used to set per-pupil funding for every school district in Indiana, is being phased in over seven years to equalize school corporations. That means some schools, despite a 3-percent increase in state funding for K-12 approved in late April for the 2014-15 state budget, may continue to see their funding flat-lined or decreased for several years until they reach the new "set point" in the formula. Others will see a steady increase. “We're trying to make sure all students are treated equally,” said Rep. Jeff Thompson (R- Danville), who helped craft the new formula. But Shafer, Robison and many of their colleagues in similar districts don't see it as equitable. They're still feeling the hit from a $300-million cut in K-12 education funding in the last state budget cycle, and they were hoping for more than the modest 3-percent increase in K-12 funding in the next budget cycle. Shafer explained the new funding formula has two parts: basic tuition support and other categoricals, such as special education and honors programs. Funding for the categoricals is based on head counts in those programs. "We're not concerned about the categoricals per se," he said. "Basic tuition support is the real area of concern." See Wednesday's Times Sentinel for the full story.