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Changes to Indiana’s school funding formula are expected to hurt large urban districts throughout the state. But they may benefit some local schools in Monroe County. Indiana lawmakers finished the 2015 legislative session last night. The legislature passed a two-year budget that includes a $464 million increase in education spending. State Representative Matt Pierce, a Democrat who represents most of Bloomington, is critical of the education budget. But he says the Monroe County Community School Corporation should do comparatively well under the new funding formula.
“MCCSC does fairly well in the funding formula” Pierce says. However State Representative Matt Pierce when on to say, ” People who attend more rural schools are going have difficulty…then you have urban schools like, Gary or Indianapolis public school systems, they’re getting really hammered”.
Republican leaders in Indiana, including Governor Mike Pence, praised the new state budget today. They issued statements pointing out the budget is balanced and includes no new tax increases. In a press conference this morning, Pence indicated he would sign the budget bill into law.
State Senate Pro Tem David Long issued a press release today stating QUOTE “The budget maintains Indiana’s hard-fought reserve funds and prioritizes education funding” UNQUOTE. But statements like those from Pence and Long don’t tell the whole story.
“They’re not going to talk about about the things that aren’t getting done so they had to take several million dollars out of local road funding” Pierce exclaimed. He continued ”So we’re going to have more pot holes, more crumbling infrastructure and the transportation system is going to decline.”
Despite his criticisms, Peirce was supportive of a part of the new budget targeted at criminal justice. The legislature allocated $60 million partly to help pay for local probation and community corrections programs. Those programs have been strained after the legislature changed the criminal code last year. Many offenders are now being sent to local programs rather than state prisons. Pierce said the local programs need the money but he was frustrated the legislature insisted on funneling the new funding through the state Department of Corrections.
“I think that’s a big mistake because the department of corrections has been missing in action in trying to improve our system” Pierce says. “Their hearts not going to be in what we need to get done on the local level.”
The legislature also passed a measure allowing limited needle exchange programs to open around the state. Indiana law generally outlaws those programs, but Governor Pence has suspended the rules recently in Scott County, where an HIV outbreak is linked to sharing needles. Under the new law, a county would have to prove there is a public health emergency in order to set up a needle exchange program. Critics say counties will probably be reluctant to declare such an emergency for fear of attracting negative publicity.