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Budget turmoil at session’s end delivers $312 million more for K-12 schools

By Brandon Smith, IPB News | Published on in Education, Government, Politics
Lawmakers approved a new, two-year, $44.5 billion state budget, mostly along party lines. (Brandon Smith/IPB News)

Turmoil over the state budget at the end of the 2023 session delivered another $312 million for K-12 schools as lawmakers gave final approval to the new two-year, $44.5 billion spending plan.

Significant expansion of the school voucher program ate up a lot of the funding increase for K-12 schools in HB 1001. And that had Senate Republicans crying foul.

That lead to a change that Senate budget architect Ryan Mishler (R-Mishawaka) said will deliver a total of $1.5 billion more for education.

“So, I would say the biggest winner in this budget is all students, in some way, shape or form,” Mishler said.

But for almost every Democrat, including Sen. Eddie Melton (D-Gary), the voucher expansion was too big a pill to swallow.

“Public schools are about to be severely hurt by the decisions we made this session,” Melton said.

The voucher expansion will allow families of four earning up to $220,000 a year to get taxpayer funding to help pay for private school education.

Republicans say the overall budget is full of opportunity for Hoosiers; Democrats decry it as a missed opportunity.

The budget makes unprecedented investments in health funding: $225 million for local health departments and $100 million for mental health resources. But those spending levels fall far short of what studies and advocates say is needed.

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Still, House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) said the new spending plan “makes more investments in the things that have worked.”

“Like cutting taxes, letting people keep their own money,” Huston said. “Letting it get invested back in the communities of our state.”

The budget accelerates gradual reductions in the individual income tax rate put into law last year. For a Hoosier earning $50,000 a year, that acceleration will save them $325 total over the next six years.

Rep. Greg Porter said the legislature fell far short of what Indiana needs for its future.

“This is a budget that, we talk about a state that works,” Porter said. “But to me, it’s a state that works for a few.”

The final budget includes free textbooks for all K-12 public and charter school students.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.