School Efficiency Grant Fund Bill Passes Committee

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January 16, 2015 —

INDIANAPOLIS- Indiana schools seeking to consolidate may receive monetary incentive from the state.

Under House Bill 1100, the state would create the School Efficiency Grant Fund, supplying schools with one-time grants up to $500,000 to help cover consolidation costs.

The bill’s author, Rep. Randy Frye, R- District 67, got the idea from a superintendent in his district. The district has smaller, rural community schools that struggle with funding.

“My area of southern Ripley County has three schools six miles apart. If those were to streamline transportation and make one transportation system, that’s what were looking at here – that’s what were trying to do,” Frye said. “(This bill) will help schools in my area for sure and across the state. It works together to cut costs and increase efficiency.”

The State Board of Education would have most of the control over the grant system, such as the amount of appropriations and what schools are approved for the grant program.

When considering if an application for a grant should be approved, the Board of Education will look to see if consolidation could reduce administrative costs and duplication of programs, as well as debt.

While many on the House Education Committee approved of the concept, some were not pleased with the maximum funding amount of $500,000.

“I have reservations about this. We’re spending money to save money,” Rep. Jim Lucas, R-District 69, said. “I think it’s a good bill, but I concerns for spending half a million dollars to corporations. If we eliminated bureaucracy, we can give more freedom to schools so they could work among themselves, I think we should consider alternatives instead of continually going to the taxpayer.”

In addition, some Representatives, including Committee Chairman Robert Behning, R- Indianapolis, said the requested $500,000 from the General Assembly would be too high of a monetary request for the fund.

Others, such as John Barnes, the director of legislative affairs for the Department of Education, see the bill as an opportunity to help schools.

“We support the concept. We do share concerns about how there cold be issues in terms of cost. But, in times like this efficiency for school funds is paramount,” Barnes said. “Going forward, we will offer support and assistance to help in any way we can. There are a lot of different issues to discuss but the bill represents a great idea going forward.”

During the committee’s discussion of the bill on Thursday, lawmakers also agreed to add language into the bill that would specify the Department of Education creating parameters to ensure schools were adhering to the grant’s stipulations.

The bill passed the committee by a 12-0 vote and will head to the House for consideration.

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