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Porter advocates for improvements to Complexity Index formula during Interim Study Committee on Fiscal Policy

IBLC, News & Media

INDIANAPOLIS – At today's Interim Study Committee on Fiscal Policy, legislators discussed the school funding formula for the complexity index, which determines how much additional funding schools with at-risk student populations receive. Rep. Gregory W. Porter (D-Indianapolis), ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, requested that the committee address this topic.

Porter released the following statement on the funding formula and changes the General Assembly should make during the upcoming 2023 budget session:

“Education is supposed to be the great equalizer. Our education system should empower all of our students, no matter their background or family circumstances, to enter adulthood with foundational skills and baseline levels of competency. Some communities struggle with poverty and barriers that hold kids back, however, and the school corporations in those communities need more help.

“That's where the Complexity Index comes in. It's undergone several iterations since the General Assembly first started it, but its purpose is to identify and grant additional funds to schools serving at-risk children to fully meet the needs of those at-risk children. 

“However, in its current incarnation, the Complexity Index is not serving the purpose it once did. Complexity funding has decreased by 40% since 2015, while school expenditures to address challenges created by poverty exceeded revenues by 14% during the 2021 school year. One reason for this is that the amount of funding directed to the Complexity Index has been reduced as more money has gone toward the Base Grant amount per student, regardless of a school population's relative disadvantaged status.

“Another reason is the way we grant complexity status to schools and students. Many states calculate this through the straightforward and easily verifiable Free and Reduced Lunch counts, and Indiana used to do this as well. Now, we calculate complexity via a three-factor formula that counts the number of students per school district receiving SNAP or TANF and the number of students in foster care. TANF and foster care counts have declined significantly over the past few years, which suppresses these factors in the Complexity Index counts. In addition, research has shown that a significant numbers of families eligible for SNAP do not apply because of the stigma associated with enrolling in that program.

“Ideally, the interim committee meeting today has convinced legislators that we need to increase funding to the Complexity Index and consider returning to a formula counting method using Free and Reduced Lunch counts. I can remember a time when championing the Complexity Index was a bipartisan endeavor, and I hope we can return to that during this next budget cycle.”

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