Being a school board member of a district with high poverty and a high free and reduced lunch rate, I’ve witnessed some of the conditions in which our children live and some of the baggage they bring with them to school. You’ve seen it, too…those of you in other large urban districts as well as those of you in smaller, rural communities.
Those of us with student like ours understand the importance of complexity. Complexity funding was created to provide dollars to educate students from low-income homes who are at-risk. We’ve seen how poverty affects students and know that extra resources are needed to educate them. This funding covers counseling, health services, alternative education, classroom assistants, ELL, tutoring programs, pull-out programs – essentials for our most needy. Whether it’s my district or yours, fewer Complexity dollars means fewer additional services.
The children we provide these services to have experienced trauma. Imagine this: Coming to school after hiding in the bathroom because you were scared of the gunshots you heard in the middle of the night. Coming to school late because your parent was too passed out drunk to wake you up in time for school. Coming to school hungry…I’m sure you’ve seen it and can add to this list.
But now imagine this: Trying to come to school to learn under these circumstances.
Educators and anyone else who cares about the well-being of children know this trauma affects every ounce of a child’s education. Until a child’s basic needs are met, until a child learns how to regulate their emotions and behavior, it is not easy for them to focus on math and science and reading. It takes additional funding to give them the additional resources they need so they are ready to learn. That is why it is important for us to advocate for EQUITABLE funding.
We can receive equitable funding through complexity dollars, but that current funding amount isn’t enough. We’re cut short! There is a discrepancy between what we receive and what we spend. Last year, the 50 poorest school districts in Indiana spent 393 million dollars on these services, yet the state only gave 345 million dollars. That is a 15% deficit. While our foundation funding has increased 3.7% annually since 2015, our complexity funding has decreased 5% annually. This is not acceptable.
Do we really want ALL children to be reading at grade level by 3rd grade? Do we really want ALL students to be college and career ready when they graduate high school? Then we need teach the WHOLE child. In order to do this, we need more complexity funding so that we can educate ALL children to high standards. Inform your friends and family why Complexity dollars are so needed. Contact your legislators and tell them to fully fund our most vulnerable children. We want to see complexity dollars increase, not decrease! We must serve those most in need as equitably as we can.