Shortridge Teachers Speak Up for School Funding

By El’ad Nichols Kaufman

Many teachers believe the Indiana General Assembly has been setting education policy without consulting them. This year, Shortridge teachers decided that if legislators wouldn’t come to them, they would go to the legislators. Teachers held a “Teach In” March 25 at the Statehouse, holding online classes where it was physically impossible for lawmakers to ignore them.

Shortridge teacher Anthony Marino, traveled to the Statehouse for the Teach In to show his concern for school funding allocations.

“There is money the General Assembly wants to put into vouchers, that we want to go to complexity funding,” Mr. Marino said.

Complexity funding is school funding that is allocated to schools based on how many students they have that are in poverty, or are English language learners, in order to make sure that those students, who have more obstacles in their education, have all their needs met. The state has cut complexity funding and changed how it was raised, meaning less and less money gets to poor districts.

The increase to voucher programs has raised much criticism from Democrats in the State Legislature as well as teachers, because it primarily aids families who can already afford private schools, while coming at the expense of money that could be going to low income students.

“I’m a big opponent of the voucher system in general,” Mr. Marino said. “Private schools can deny entry to students with special needs, and pick and choose who they want. Public schools have to take everyone, and they need the money.”

The need for more complexity funding remains an ongoing concern of educators.

Sarah Tekolste, one of the event’s organizers, said that public schools are suffering particularly badly now with a combination of Covid-19’s impact on students, and decreased tax revenue.

“IPS is facing an $18 million budget shortfall. Reducing funding to public schools at the same time IPS has to cut teachers and programs is catastrophic. It’s disproportionately hurting the schools who need complexity funding the most.”

She also pointed out that this is not really an urban against rural issue. “Cutting complexity funding is actually taking away money from people in rural districts. Increasing vouchers is only going to help if you have private schools in your county- it might benefit people in Hamilton County, but not in Shelby County.”

During the Teach In, people from around the district came to show their support for the teachers. Several students attended school from the Statehouse, school board members came, and there was even a yoga group supporting the teachers present. Teachers and supporters went down to testify before the General Assembly’s Education Committee as well. 

Allison Larty, who also put together this entire event, said that it was very important to let people know the teachers are active. 

“Indiana teachers need to organize our own action… to remind them [the State Legislature] that we’re aware, and that we will fight for our students.”