Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

November 14, 2012

Local educators hope debt deal is reached

‘Cliff’ could deeply impact special education, Title I services

Educator Cheryl Harshman said she is begging federal legislators to strike a debt deal before the end of the year to avoid across-the-board budget cuts that would hurt her special education students here in Howard, Tipton and Miami counties.

If Congress can’t agree soon on a plan that will save the nation $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, then a series of automatic, across-the-board cuts called “sequestration” will take effect Jan. 2. The nation’s economy could fall off a “fiscal cliff.”

As part of those automatic cuts, an estimated $4 billion would be slashed from the U.S. Department of Education’s budget, impacting federally funded programs in local school districts, officials have said.

“That could be devastating to a school district that’s already on the brink,” said Tri-Central Community Schools Superintendent Lee Williford.

The National Education Association recently compiled a report that broke down the potential impacts, by state, using federal agency budget data.

Indiana schools stand to lose about $70 million, according to the report.

Title I and special education programs will be hit hardest. The state could lose a combined $42.99 million in funding for them, the report states.

Harshman, director of the Kokomo Area Special Education Cooperative, is worried her students will suffer because of the drastic cuts.

Right now, Harshman has a $2.6 million budget to serve students in seven school districts. She estimates she’ll lose about $200,000 if a deal isn’t reached.

“I’m not even fully funded now, and they’re cutting me even more,” Harshman said.

Further cuts would likely force her to lay off teachers and paraprofessionals and combine classes, she said.

Right now, one teacher and two paraprofessionals work with a class of about 11 students, which is already at capacity, Harshman said. If staff members are laid off, class sizes would jump to 16 or 17.

“That will make it even more difficult to work with students who have severe medical needs and physical needs,” Harshman said.

There are students with disabilities severe enough that they have to be taught how to go to the bathroom on their own and feed themselves, she said.

“It takes a lot of manpower,” Harshman said.

Western School Corp. Superintendent Randy McCracken is concerned about funding Title I programs in his district.

This year Western received $364,000 from the federal government to support programs that help economically disadvantaged kids succeed in school, McCracken said.

Those funds pay for reading specialists and Title I aides who work with children who fall behind in school.

“They provide a ton of services for our remediation programs,” McCracken said. “That’s an important component of our district right now.”

He said that’s what prepares many students for state tests like ISTEP-Plus and IREAD-3.

Eliminating those programs is not an option.

“We can’t lose those services,” he said. “They’re too valuable to us.”

The district will have to find a way to make up that money somewhere, McCracken said. But that’s nothing new.

“It’s what’s been happening in education for four or five years,” he said. “We’re doing more with less.”

In the grand scheme of things, the money Indiana schools stand to lose may not seem like much.

The cuts would be less than 1 percent of the general fund budget for Indiana schools, said Terry Spradlin, director for education policy at Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy.

But schools never fully recovered from the recession that hit the country in 2001, let alone the most recent one, he said. Indiana schools have been faced with tough budgetary decisions for the better part of a decade, Spradlin said.

They’ve been laying off staff and cutting programs. The sequestration would just prompt further cuts.

“They’ve already tightened the belts,” he said. “I’m not sure there are any belt loops left to tighten it anymore.”

Spradlin said the nation needs to do something about the budget because the United States is spending more than it’s bringing in.

He’s not sure that across-the-board cuts are the answer, though.

Williford is a little more optimistic.

“Some people would be just as happy if federal funding [for schools] disappeared completely,” he said. “In my opinion, education should be a function of the state.”

If the federal government stopped funding schools and let states do it instead, local educators may have more control over what happens in their schools, Williford said.

McCracken isn’t so sure that the state would pick up the tab, though.

“It would surprise me if they did,” he said. “It’s going to come back on the school districts.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Former county official pleads guilty to conversion One of two former county officials charged with theft and official misconduct was sentenced last week to a two-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges. Darrell Reed, 52, pleaded guilty to two Class A misdemeanor conversio

    July 24, 2014

  • NWS - KT072514 Kokomo School Board - pic Blueprints found during demolition aid Central Middle School remodel

    When workers began the tear down for renovations to the Central Middle School auditorium, they stumbled upon something very important and helpful sifting through the century-old material. Tucked away inside the structure were the original blueprints,

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bona Vista to build new $1.23 million housing development Bona Vista Programs has announced it plans to build a new $1.23 million housing development in downtown Kokomo to accommodate people with disabilities. The new 6,500-square-foot housing unit called Elmwood Trails will be located at 1101 N. Buckeye St

    July 24, 2014

  • Burlington woman charged in May fatal crash A 26-year-old Burlington woman is being accused of driving drunk causing the death of a Frankfort man in a May 2 accident near the Howard-Tipton county line. Howard County sheriff deputies served a warrant on Casie E. Johnson on Wednesday charging he

    July 24, 2014

  • Lake Co. judge strikes down Indiana right-to-work INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A Lake County judge struck down Indiana's right-to-work ban on certain union fees in a second legal blow to the contentious law passed in 2012. Lake County Circuit Court Judge George Paras determined the law violates the state co

    July 24, 2014

  • Kokomo man charged with sexual misconduct with a minor Kokomo police arrested a 20-year-old man Tuesday afternoon on a warrant charging him with sexual misconduct with a minor involving a 14-year-old girl.Officers arrested Malachi Ely at 4:38 p.m. at his residence in the 500 block of South Goyer Road on

    July 24, 2014

  • Howard County rejected for state preschool pilot Howard County is not among the five counties selected for Indiana’s new preschool voucher pilot.Gov. Mike Pence announced Tuesday that Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties will roll out the program in 2015. Eighteen counties, includi

    July 24, 2014

  • Peru dam Who should fix the dams? PERU — Who has jurisdiction over six dams located in the Hidden Hills housing addition just north of Peru, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources or the people who own the land?It’s a question with a lot riding on it — more than $1.5 million, in

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Kokomo Airport runway extension nearing completion After more than a decade of waiting, a runway extension project that will allow the Kokomo Municipal Airport to attract new business will soon be prepared for takeoff.The project, which will extend the airport’s main runway from 5,200 feet to 6,000 f

    July 24, 2014

  • NWS KT 072314 Serena Youth Center pic Serena Youth Center to offer safe haven for young women

    Young women in Kokomo in need of security and additional support will soon have a new place to call home as plans move forward to open the Serena Youth Center. On Tuesday, Coordinated Assistance Ministries Inc. closed on a property for the youth cent

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Obama Seeks Limits on US Company Mergers Abroad Large Family to Share NJ Lottery Winnings U.S. Flights to Israel Resume After Ban Lifted Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans Raw: National Guard Helps Battle WA Wildfires Raw: Ukraine's Donetsk Residents Flee Senators Push to End Hamas Threat in Cease-Fire A Young Victim's Premonition, Hug Before MH17 Raw: Deadly Storm Hits Virginia Campground Death Penalty Expert: 'This is a Turning Point' Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.