INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Public Schools said a decline in enrollment amid the pandemic has led to a $15 million budget deficit this academic school year.
“It’s a big question mark, obviously, for every district to see what choices those families make,” said IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson.
The district’s projections for next year’s budget is even further down the slope. On Tuesday, district leaders said they could be forced to lay off employees due to an anticipated $18 million shortfall in the 2021-2022 school year.
“Our priority is to ensure that classroom instruction — teaching and learning — is impacted as little as possible by any reductions we have to make,” said Johnson.
Johnson said the state average for total tuition support has increased 15% since 2013-2014, however, IPS has seen an increase of $17.
“I’m not sure what that percent is, but it’s no where close to 15%, which I think is the headline there,” said Johnson.
Based on this, the district said they have to continue to make recommendations for more equitable state funding.
IPS Chief Financial Officer Weston Young explained there are two types of funding: foundation funding, which gives every student or district equal amounts of funding, and complexity funding, which gives more to districts with low-income students.
“Right now, the base of complexity hasn’t been funded or increased the last few years,” said Young. “That’s critical. At some point, their equal is not equitable.”
Young said district leaders continue to make sure equitable funding is at the forefront of state lawmaker’s decision making. They strive to ensure complexity funds are being awarded at the same or greater rate as foundation funding.
Meanwhile, Rep. Gregory Porter agrees with the district. He said complexity funding has actually fallen 50% over the past decade from 20% to 10%.
“IPS is continuously, even though they have more students, they continuously lose money,” said Rep. Porter.
“The flaw in the theory of ‘everyone gets something’ is the fact that everyone is not at the same place or existing under the same conditions,” said Johnson. “Which means we need to fund equitably and acknowledge the differences that exist, versus funding equally.”
IPS district leaders emphasize they have not yet finalized any budget reductions for this year or next. They said those recommendations will be made by late spring.