BICKNELL — North Knox Superintendent Darrel Bobe says that after closely monitoring economic realities and projections at the state level, he and other school leaders are bracing for possible cuts to public education funding in the years ahead.
At their monthly meeting this week, North Knox school board members agreed that the school’s receipt of $250,000 as part of the federal CARES Act stimulus package should be reserved as part of a Rainy Day Fund in the eventual likelihood that the state of Indiana will make cuts to the education budget in future years.
“I know this is what happened in 2009 during the Great Recession,” Bobe said. “I’m afraid we’re going to see that again.”
Bobe, who has participated in presentations at the state level on the funding issue, said Indiana’s projected financial forecast has changed drastically in just five months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“What was supposed to happen in April, according to December projections, showed the state at about $2.1 billion in revenue, but it’s actually 44% less for the state than what they forecasted,” he said.
With the unemployment rate hovering somewhere between 20-25% in Indiana thanks to COVID-19 related layoffs, Bobe says he is preparing for a financially difficult few years in education.
“It’s not a good sign for school corporations,” he said, adding that “I know, with this being a budget year, the state is going to be looking to cut big money.”
During the recession of 2008-09, Indiana cut approximately $300 million dollars from public education, and Bobe says with the magnitude of financial devastation caused by the coronavirus, he’s anticipating the state may cut nearly twice as much from the education budget in the near future, possibly resulting in salary freezes, layoffs and other cuts.
Though he doesn’t anticipate seeing any major financial deficits at the start of the 2020-2021 academic year, Bobe and other school administrators are steeling themselves for what seems inevitable.
“I lived through it once in 2009, but I think the next three to five years are going to be tough,” he said.
Greg Parsley, superintendent of the Vincennes Community School Corp., told members of his board of trustees the district was going to see about $700,000 in federal stimulus money. His suggestion, too, was to put it away for safe keeping in case they experience significant revenue losses in the future.
But despite the bleak economic forecast and possible budget cuts, Bobe says he still seeks out the good things happening for the students at North Knox.
The school corporation’s Formative Assessment Grant, for $16,000, was approved and will be used for i-Ready testing at the Primary School
And, Bobe said, North Knox recently received two gifts — from the Trabant Foundation donated $5,500 for new wrestling equipment and Duke Energy for $5,000 to continue the school’s Family Literacy Night program.
Though schools were forced to close in March as a result of COVID-19, Bobe says he has also continued to be impressed by the work of North Knox teachers, particularly highlighting a small group of educators who participated in the new Teacher Leader group.
Connecting a handful of educators across disciplines, the new professional development opportunity encouraged teachers to communicate with one another and reflect on their own leadership styles and skills, with the aim of making them even more effective for their students.