Red for Ed

MOROCCO — With more than 40 educators in attendance, most of them wearing “Red for Ed”, the North Newton School Corporation staff and administration along with the school board stood united in a special meeting Sept. 9 to discuss state funding for education and the need for legislative change.

“This evening’s meeting is a result of newly passed legislation that mandates a public hearing to take public testimony regarding collective bargaining,” said Kelly Petri, North Newton Education Association President. “In my opinion, this legislation was an attempt to divide the administration and school board from teachers. What the legislators did not realize is that together, we have a common goal — doing what is best for the students in our community. Therefore, the North Newton teachers stand united with our administration and school board to share information on the decline of public school funding.”

Some of the key statistics regarding public school funding that was shared during the meeting included:

North Newton has lost $7,736,617 in funding since 2009.

The state’s new funding formula takes local taxes and distributes the money to other schools including charter schools.

Cutbacks have reduced elementary students’ time in art, gym, and music, and caused the elimination of music programs.

Indiana ranks 36th in the nation for teacher salary average.

Indiana ranks last for percent change in teacher salaries from 2000.

From 2000 to 2010 Indiana had an average increase of 3.4 percent in public school funding.

From 2011-2019 the statewide average increase in public school funding dropped to 1.4 percent.

“The North Newton School Corporation and the North Newton Education Association have a long and rich history of working together for the betterment of our schools and all the students in the corporation,” said Dr. Cathy Rowe, North Newton Superintendent. “We look forward to working together to do what the corporation is able to do financially, despite declining enrollment, to compensate and recognize our teachers and staff for the hard work they do every day.”

Rowe added that the North Newton school district has experienced declining enrollment over the past several years to go along with money being diverted from public education to private and public charters.

“We have been fortunate to not have to cut numerous programs and services for our students and continue to find creative solutions to do more with less, just as our rural neighboring districts do,” Rowe said. “Our teachers and staff are committed educators who care deeply about their students and persevere daily to hold students accountable to higher standards. They deserve our thanks and appreciation for education and caring for our children. There is not a more important job.”

Karen Zackfia, North Newton Director of Business and Finance, gave a presentation showing that when the state got rid of the minimum guarantees for school corporations in 2006 North Newton has received $27 million less in funding than it would have if that formula was still in place.

She also showed that declining enrollment is continuing and the school district had 62 fewer students last school year than the year before.

“The funding per student from the state has not kept up with inflation,” added Zackfia. “It is time that we demand the General Assembly to provide adequate funding for our students.”

Contacting state legislators about increasing funding for public education was a focal point that was repeated by the teachers and the administration.

“It is no secret that teachers in Indiana have been under attack from our legislators,” said Petri. “Some examples include budget cuts, required unpaid training hours, being held accountable by state testing that should not be a measure of student achievement, and an overall lack of respect for the profession responsible for preparing the children in the state of Indiana for successful futures. Teachers are fighting because our students deserve it. We must stand together for them. They are all our top priority.”