Budget Shock

Indiana State Representative Mike Karickhoff does a good job of keeping his constituents informed about state government. He deserves our thanks. This week brought into my mailbox Karickhoff’s most recent update and with it a SHOCK!

There is a graphic that shows clearly where Indiana citizens tax dollars actually go. I have included it so you will see for yourselves.

For the fiscal year 2024-2025, Indiana will spend 47% of all tax dollars on K-12 education and another 10% on higher education. That means over half, 57%, of all tax dollars go to education of Indiana citizens, largely children.

The Indiana Department of Education reports 82% of third graders can read at grade level which means 18% (about 14,000 students) cannot. It also reports Indiana’s literacy rates have been declining for a decade, well before the pandemic. Somewhat similar performance occurs in math proficiency. All of this in spite of the fact it is reported the USA spends more per student on education than all other advanced countries of the world except for tiny country Luxembourg.

And according to the National Literacy Institute, on average 79% of US adults nationwide are literate in 2024. Further, it reports the US ranks 36th in literacy among countries. Something is amiss.

I have to wonder. My impression is that we are spending an inordinate amount of money and energy on school athletics and marching bands and not enough on academics. A good example is the multi-million dollar girls softball field at Kokomo High School. And take a look at the football stadium for KHS. It rivals many at the collegiate level. Then there is the marching band facility and even the architectural horns and whistles on any new building construction.

Too, I wonder about how many hours of classroom instruction per year take place in schools. I read that in Indiana 180 days of instruction in an academic year are required at minimum for elementary and secondary schools; that is less than half the days in a year. I see school buses leaving schools with students a little after 2:00 in the afternoon. Indiana requires a minimum of 5 hours per day for grades 1 through 5 and 6 hours for grades 7-12. These don’t count any recesses or lunch periods.

From past experience, I know that a significant percentage of students who sought admission to Indiana University Kokomo could not pass the English or the math proficiency requirement. Remediation courses were required.

Given the taxpayer funds spent on Indiana education from grade one through state supported university levels, maybe it is time to rethink a few things.