Claire McInerny, writing for State Impact Indiana, has a good article on challenges faced by Wabash County and City Schools due to the State’s approach to funding and the loss of students in their districts. The State takes a “money follows the student” approach to school funding which leads to problems when students move elsewhere. Efforts to keep the schools going have resulted in Wabash City Schools closing schools. Now their gifted program takes place in a former storage room.
Scenarios like this exist across the state. Over the last decade, almost all rural school districts lost students. And because state funding is based on enrollment, when students leave, so does cash.
On top of this, consolidation and school closures upset parents, who may elect to move their children, which means even less money.
I’ve argued against money-follows-the-child funding on any number of occasions. It’s misguided because children are not widgets — some cost more than others to fund. It’s also misguided because the public dollars aren’t an entitlement for individual students. After all, lots and lots of people without children pay into the system. Those dollars are ultimately investments communities are making in themselves. Recognition should be given to the fact that public money is ultimately paying for a public good — a public good that both educates the children and creates a public institution that makes the community a better place to live.
It looks like, under the current funding model, Wabash City and Wabash County are looking at County-wide consolidation.