Superintendent Perceptions of the Effects of the Indiana School Funding Formula on Indiana's Small, Rural School Districts
This study examines the perceptions of five superintendents of small, rural school districts in Indiana as they pertain to their experiences with the current school funding formula. In 2008, the Indiana legislature enacted Public Law 146, which was a significant shift in how Indiana’s schools were funded. This change removed local property taxes as a component of general fund revenue. It also placed property tax caps into the Indiana constitution, making the change permanent. The state of Indiana made the commitment to provide all funding to local school districts through the funding formula, which became directly tied to student enrollment. Historically, Indiana has not increased the level of funding going into the formula by sufficient amounts when compared to the rate of inflation, creating a funding deficit for schools.
The review of the literature explores the history of school funding in the United States of America, and also specifically examines Indiana’s funding history. It also explores many of the challenges faced by Indiana’s small, rural schools, going on to examine recent developments and legislation in this area. Five experienced superintendents were interviewed for this study, using an interview protocol that explored a variety of topics to help bring out their lived experiences. The interview data were coded and analyzed, and three assertions emerged.
Based on the interviews and shared experiences of the superintendents who participated in the study, it was found that the Indiana school funding formula is not providing sufficient funding to support its small, rural school districts. The data also revealed that the superintendents in this study have found creative and innovative ways to increase revenue, reduce costs, or both, in an effort to maintain financial stability as a result of this insufficient funding. Additionally, it was revealed that in order to truly support its public schools with the resources needed to provide an outstanding education to all students, Indiana must increase the funding being allocated to the funding formula in future years. While recent legislative developments appear promising for the funding of Indiana’s schools, time will tell if this is the start of a positive trend, or if these improvements are simply a temporary reaction to political pressure. To answer this query, further study and analysis of the funding formula and superintendent perceptions in future years will be needed.