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The Journal Gazette

Friday, January 12, 2018 1:00 am

Schools' surprise boom spurs funding bills

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – An effort to fix a funding shortfall for students passed its first hurdle Thursday.

Senate Bill 189 was unanimously approved in the Senate Appropriations Committee. It diverts money from the tuition reserve fund – part of Indiana's surplus – to Indiana schools that would otherwise have seen millions in cuts.

The total amount is still being calculated but could cost about $16 million. A similar shortfall could occur next year, and the bill includes a provision to address that, as well.

The funding gap was caused by a miscalculation in school enrollment. Over 6,000 more students attended public schools this year than expected.

Locally, the enrollment gains ranged from 140 more students in Fort Wayne Community Schools to 236 more students in East Allen County Schools.

Several senators were interested in the reason behind the public-school growth. Fiscal analysts are crunching the data but said it's likely a combination of smaller factors.

Various factors – including families moving in from out of state, students leaving parochial schools and general residential growth – can contribute to enrollment gains, administrators said.

Overall, the change in enrollment is less than 0.5 percent and very small in terms of total number of students.

A Legislative Services Agency staffer testified that the change is well within the range of a normal fluctuation.

The House is also moving a similar measure in House Bill 1001. It passed committee Wednesday.

Both now move to the floors of the individual chambers.