Joel Hand – Special Session Testimony on SB 3
Joel Hand’s Testimony on SB 3 (Tax & Fiscal Matters) to Senate Appropriations Committee on July 26, 2022.
Good afternoon, Chairman Mishler and members of the Committee. My name is Joel Hand and I represent the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, a grassroots organization of Hoosier taxpayers, parents, business owners and others who are dedicated to preserving public funding for public schools. Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony on Senate Bill 3.
We have heard Chairman Mishler’s concerns about opening the budget in a non-budget session. Frankly, ICPE has never previously advocated for opening the state budget in a non-budget session. Nonetheless, today, we are asking that you consider using a portion of the State’s 1.4 billion dollar surplus to address one of the most critical needs and that will impact nearly every single Hoosier.
Public schools serve every community throughout the state and at least 90 percent of all school-age Hoosier children. Public schools impact every citizen, even those without school age children because they are largely responsible for producing our next generation of leaders and our workforce. Public schools are our most important and impactful public resource.
In the past, when the State faced difficult fiscal times and state revenues were down, K-12 public schools were among the hardest hit by mandated cuts in state funding. Cuts which were never fully restored and which, in turn, contributed greatly to the stagnation of teacher salaries for a decade.
Now, with inflation rates that have spiraled up to 8.6% as of May, 2022, we know that the increase provided to K-12 tuition support in the current state budget, although above inflation projections at the time, will not provide schools the increased purchasing power we all expected and won’t keep up with current inflation rates. Coupling the reduced purchasing power for schools due to inflation with the continuing teacher shortage crisis has created yet another storm for public schools to weather. With the 2022-23 school year starting soon, thousands of teaching positions remain unfilled.
Based on these circumstances, we believe that it is imperative to utilize a significant portion of the surplus to help public schools overcome the funding gap created by current inflation rates and to help lure more teachers back to the classroom to provide high quality instruction to our children from well-trained and highly qualified teachers.
 Inflation and Indiana School District Budgets, Purdue University Extension, by Larry DeBoer, July 6, 2022.