Classroom fight caught on camera raises larger funding issues

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 28, 2015) — A video of young kids out of control in their classroom speaks to the larger issue of school funding being tackled by state legislators this session.

The video, shot inside a Phoenix Academy classroom in Indianapolis Public Schools, shows 3rd to 6th graders fighting while one teacher tries to break them up.

Administrators told CBS4 that the teacher was supervising nearly double her normal number of kids, because a substitute had not shown up that day. Since the incident, the district has added an extra adult to every classroom in the school.

The video comes as schools are on edge this legislative session about the funding they’ll receive. Education marks more than half the state budget and one major issue is whether high-performing, suburban districts should get more of the money that’s currently going to low-performing districts like IPS.

“That’s what takes care of our classrooms,” said Dr. Jeff Butts, superintendent of Wayne Township Schools.

Butts explained the funding issues in play, saying public schools are already dealing with million of dollars less after the 2010 tax cap. In fact, he said his district is in such dire need, they will go to taxpayers for a May referendum this year.

“We have an eight million dollar shortfall right now and we have to figure out how do we close that (gap),” Butts said.

Without it, Butts said he may have to cut jobs and with at least two adults – sometimes as many as four – inside every Wayne Township classroom right now, he said a fight like the one on video is prevented.

“It could be a familiar scenario in tougher and leaner times, so that is a possibility. It could be, if we don’t have the resources we (have) today,” Butts said.

IPS board members heard a legislative update at their meeting Tuesday, much of it concerning funding in the state budget. The district is also pushing to keep as many dollars as possible in its struggling schools.

State Rep. Tim Brown, R-District 41, presides over the House committee writing the budget and told CBS 4 he was focused on the kids in every district. However, he said with so many kids and districts, it’s hard to please everyone.

“I think happiness might be in the eye of the beholder. I’m sure there’s a lot of people that are going to (have) expectations that they’re disappointed. I can’t control that,” Brown said.

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