Tough Words From The Lieutenant Governor On School Funding

By Laura Donaldson

June 18, 2010 Updated Mar 17, 2010 at 6:10 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - Tough words from Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman about school funding.

Skillman took aim at school officials who blame the legislature for funding problems. Local school officials claim the governor's education cuts are responsible for the possibility of school closures.

Skillman told Indiana’s NewsCenter it's a tough time for schools, it's also a tough time for local and state government too, but tough decisions have to be made.

In December Governor Mitch Daniels cut $300 million dollars from statewide school funding. Public schools lost about 3.5 percent of their state funding this year because of that cut. The cuts are intended to help the state make up a shortfall in tax collections. Skillman says the cut was a last resort.

But teachers and administrators are frustrated with the decision.

“What taxes would they like us to raise,” Skillman asked. “There is no other alternative. There is no other answer. There is no money. We've had 17 months of declining revenue and we are one state that is fiscally sound and there is no other answer other than increasing taxes if that's what schools prefer. K-12 and higher education make up 55 percent of the state budget. So you can have 20 percent cut backs in every state agency, you can have airplanes sold and thousands of vehicles reduced in our state fleet but after a period of time there is no where else to go for cut backs other than education. So the $300 million statewide was the last resort. There was nowhere else to go other than education.”

Recently Fort Wayne Community School officials announced the possibility of closing Elmhurst High School and Pleasant Center Elementary because of cut backs. The school is facing a $15 million dollar shortfall. Northwest Allen County School officials must cut $2.4 million this year and are facing a $3.3 million budget deficit. Huntington County Community School Corporation will have to slash $1.7 million dollars from the 2010 budget.

Skillman says the State Board of Education created a Citizen's Checklist to help parents and teachers ensure every step has been taken before the classroom is affected.

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