Commentary by Scott Fadness
My father has been a real estate broker for more than 20 years. I used to hear him say that potential home buyers’ first question is almost always about the quality of the schools. I was quickly reminded of that fact when nearly a year ago, I sat down with school leaders in Fishers and heard a very concerning story.
Since the property tax reforms of 2008, almost all of our funding for school operations comes from the State of Indiana. The state distributes money to schools on a per child basis, and currently our school system is the second lowest funded public school system in the state. Hamilton Southeastern Schools currently receives $320 less per student in 2015 than it did in 2009; adjusted for inflation that number feels more like $357 less per student.
HSE administration has done a tremendous job of keeping costs down; spending per student has remained flat for the last 10 years. All the while, a high level of performance has been maintained. The question in my mind is, “Can we sustain this”? The answer I continue to land on is “no”. I think most Fishers residents understand the need to provide additional resources to school districts that face unique challenges brought on by disproportionate numbers of low income students. Hamilton County, however, continues to be an economic driver for the state, and the lack of funding for our school systems threaten our communities. Each year our county contributes far more tax revenue to the state than what it receives back.
I think most of our residents take pride in the fact that we are a strong economic engine for Indiana. But a crippled school system will inhibit our ability to provide the same level of resources to the state. The issue truly is about sustainability—for Fishers and for Indiana. There are efforts lead by State Representative Huston and Speaker Bosma currently underway at the statehouse to bring more funding to our schools. This effort will hopefully ensure that enough of our local tax dollars stay in our community to fund our schools, adequately.
It is critical that you stay engaged in this legislative discussion. Please follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@ScottFadness to stay informed or sign up to receive email updates at www.fishers.in.us/schoolfunding.
We need your support to bring about this critical change.