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House Republicans vote to slash Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation funding

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Due to an accounting trick by Indiana House Republicans, Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation will be on the hook financially for students' textbook costs and saddled with an effective budget cut. State Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville) is calling attention to the fact that EVSC will lose $1,655,200 in funding during the 2024 fiscal year to cover the cost of textbooks for all students.   

In his proposed state biennial budget, Gov. Eric Holcomb threw his support behind Indiana House Democrats' decades-long call to eliminate all textbook fees for students as its own line item entirely paid for by the state. In fact, Hatfield himself offered a bill this session to eliminate textbook fees for students, with a curriculum fund created and administered by the state to cover this cost moving forward.   

House Republicans' budget eliminates textbook funding but instead forces schools to pay for the cost of textbooks out of their state funding, even for students on free and reduced lunches, which the state currently covers.  

On the surface, EVSC will receive a 1.22% increase in base student funding from 2023 to 2024, an increase from $151,098,664 to $152,946,427. But thanks to the textbook cost of $1,655,200, that increase in funding actually comes out to only 0.13% – far below the current 6.0% rate of inflation. This will result in a significant practical funding cut for EVSC. 

“I filed my bill to eliminate textbook fees this session because I believe in our state constitution’s promise of a tuition-free K-12 public education for Hoosier kids,” Hatfield said. “I’ve seen the hardship caused by textbook costs going to collections for families in House District 77. This practice needs to end. 

“House Republicans' textbook proposal is nothing more than deceptive accounting. Forcing Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation to take on the cost of all textbooks for students without a corresponding funding bump will undermine the district’s ability to provide students and families with the education and programs they need to achieve success. 

“This provision is hardly a win for families or kids when it will deprive schools of funding to retain teachers and fight learning loss and literacy issues. It’s stunning, really, how easy it would be for the state to give families, children and schools a win here – the cost of eliminating textbook fees is approximately in the range of $100 million annually. Our state budget totals $43 billion by comparison. Free textbooks would be a minor line item for the state with a meaningful impact for EVSC families. We should make good on delivering a solid public education to the 90% of school-age Hoosier children who attend public school by actually funding this proposal. 

“I encourage all concerned parents and residents to contact their state senator and representative to express their dissatisfaction with this measure.”

As part of the House Republican budget proposal, this provision has passed out of the Indiana House of Representatives and is now under consideration by the state Senate.

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