Lydia Sheaks
Lydia Sheaks
Lydia Sheaks, education reporter, writes about finding adventure in the everyday, her opinions of current events and trends and occasionally her two cats.

Other Stories by Lydia Sheaks
Reporter Lydia Sheaks writes about education and family issues for the Elkhart Truth.

Indianapolis Public Schools' fake budget deficit shows that schools need to be more transparent about money

The story about Indianapolis Public Schools' budget deficit actually being a surplus is kind of unbelievable. How did it even happen?

Posted on March 13, 2014 at 8:50 a.m.

Indianapolis families found out Tuesday, March 11 that their school corporation's reported $30 million budget deficit is fake, according to Scott Elliott of Chalkbeat Indiana.

Indianapolis Public Schools actually has about $8 million more than it needs. 

Teachers who were worried about their jobs might be getting raises. Schools won't be closing after all. And everyone is wondering how this happened.

IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee, who's new to the job, said in a school board meeting Tuesday that his calculations show previous administration was budgeting money for programs that didn't actually exist, according to Elliott's article.

Read the whole article on in.chalkbeat.org.

The previous superintendent, Eugene White, said in an article published later that he budgeted for programs that didn't exist because "you had to have some cushion for error."

For example, White said he budgeted money for each school's athletic team — even if they didn't have a team. Money was set aside for a science and technology magnet school that was never built.

School board members said they accepted the budgets as factual, and one said that they "are not a board of accountants," according to the article.

Board members are now standing by the new superintendent and his calculations of the school's expenditures. 

Read the second article on in.chalkbeat.org.

What we can learn

Here's what I think we can learn from this situation, which is kind of unbelievable. 

Public schools have to do things publicly. If the superintendent is budgeting for programs that do not exist, he or she should make sure the board and members of the public know that's the case.

If you are a community member who is curious about where your school's money goes, ask. You have a right to know as a taxpayer. 

Schools should never be cagey about money issues. That just makes it look like there is something to hide. 

Schools that are excellent stewards of funds should be proud of that. They should want people to know how the money is spent.

But even if schools aren't forthcoming each citizen is responsible for their own knowledge about what's going on.

There's a lot of debate about school funding here in Elkhart County, as two school districts seek money through a referendum. 

Elkhart and Concord schools have both provided plenty of information about their financial situations, and both superintendents have publicly said on many occasions that they will answer questions personally.

If you don't know what the schools' financial state is, you only have yourself to blame. Go find the information you need to know to be an informed citizen.

Follow reporter Lydia Sheaks on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks

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