State Budget, School Accountability Proposals Draw Concerns from Eastern Pulaski Superintendent

Some of the bills making their way through the Indiana General Assembly are drawing concerns from Eastern Pulaski School Superintendent Dan Foster.

During his legislative update to the school board Monday, Foster said the state’s proposed budget would increase what the school corporation gets for each student, but not enough to keep up with costs.

“Today’s run sheet has an increase of three dollars per student for Eastern Pulaski, which statistically, is so low that is shows as a zero-percent increase,” Foster said. “It’s very frustrating, and again, we can’t even keep up with inflation, let alone give the increases to the people that deserve to have increases. I still hate that word, but we’re probably going to have to revisit or visit that referendum and try to figure out how we can do this.”

Foster said another bill would incorporate the new Graduation Pathways into the state’s school accountability standards. “That’s fine,” he said. “Even though we’re on a new plan already, we’ve got to redo it again. So again, the target keeps moving.”

The bigger concern is a part of the bill that would hold schools accountable for graduates meeting certain outcomes after they finish high school. “Number one, we have zero control what happens to an 18-, 19-year old seven months after they’ve graduated high school,” Foster said. “They may have started college and may have run into a family emergency and dropped out of college so they could help support their family. But again, how are we going to track that? Who’s going to track that? Where’s the money going to come from to track that?”

Foster was more supportive of a measure that would allow school safety grants to be used for programs to improve students’ social and emotional health. “We have done a lot the last few years with school safety, and we’re very proud of that. And so, physically, we’re pretty much there,” Foster said. “Now, let’s start addressing the students. If they’re going to allow us to use some of this money to do that, that’s probably one of our safest areas to go or biggest areas of need, is the mental and social well-being of our students and how they handle themselves and how they make these decisions.”

Also during Monday’s school board meeting, Winamac High School Principal Rick DeFries reported that all three Eastern Pulaski schools were found to be in compliance, during a safety audit last month.