Schools Stand To Lose Millions In Reallocation

Lawmakers Propose Reallocating Prime Time Funds

A plan to reallocate funding for a program aimed at keeping class sizes small for Indiana's youngest students is garnering mixed reactions from central Indiana school districts.

The Prime Time Program, started in the 1980s, seeks to keep class sizes for kindergarten through third-graders between 15 and 19 students, 6News' Kara Kenney reported.

A proposal to reallocate funding among school districts would eliminate the $2.7 million Indianapolis Public Schools currently receives.

Other districts that would lose money under the plan include South Bend Schools, the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township, Zionsville Schools, Muncie Schools, Anderson Schools and Speedway Schools.

Carmel Clay Schools, Hamilton Southeastern Schools, Noblesville Schools, Westfield-Washington Schools, Decatur Township Schools, Perry Township Schools, Pike Township Schools, Washington Township Schools, Wayne Township Schools and Beech Grove Schools would receive more money.

"Any additional dollars will help us," said Roger McMichael, Carmel Clay's assistant superintendent for business services. "That supports several teaching positions. We try very hard to maintain a low class size."

The district currently receives $2.7 million dollars a year for the Prime Time program. The plan calls for an additional $276,000 for Carmel Clay over the next two years.

McMichael said class sizes for grades K-5 are around 23 students per teacher.

"I definitely think it's very important to have smaller class sizes. I know when my children were in the younger grades, they've definitely thrived with less kids and more teacher attention," said Carmel mother of three Stephanie Khan. "I think it's a great idea. It's one of the reasons why we moved to Carmel, because the school system is so good. I think it's really important they're focusing on things like class sizes."

On the flip side, Speedway Schools Superintendent Ken Hull said the loss of state funding for the program will hurt.

"This predicted loss of dollars will be difficult, but our community supports its schools and we will continue to strive to meet the spirit of Prime Time," he wrote in an email. "It is also important to know this is an estimate and it is built upon the state's assumption that Speedway's enrollment will decline in grades K-3 over the coming two years. This state estimate may be correct, but we will not know until September."

House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Jeff Espich, D-Uniondale, said that growing districts should get more money, not shrinking districts such as IPS.

"Carmel Clay is a rapidly growing school corporation, as you may know, but they're only getting $5,000 per child, while IPS is getting $8,500 per child," he said. "Carmel is growing; IPS is shrinking. We have to put the money where the children are."

That view angered teachers groups and teachers, who shared their opinions with 6News

"I would love for Rep. Espich to come and be my shadow in my classroom for a week," a first-grade teacher at IPS wrote in an email to 6News. "It is hard to imagine men and women that have never been in an IPS school have the power to decide what is best for these children."

Studies have shown smaller class sizes improve test scores and student behavior. One study found that for every $1 spent to reduce K-3 class sizes from 22 students down to 15 resulted in a $2 return.

IPS is on spring break this week. Superintendent Eugene White, other administrators and school board members did not get back to 6News on Wednesday.