Friday, February 04, 2005

Is "The Blade" Open?

Governor Mitch Daniel’s was known (affectionately I am sure) during his White House days as “The Blade.”
During “The Blade’s” state-of-the-state address he promised Hoosier’s his administration would be “more open.” (click link for the transcript)

So, how is The Blade doing? Is The Blade open?

I think the first attempt to be “more open” and “more ethical” in state government, probably indicates that this particular “Blade” operates best in a closed environment.

It seems that the Governor’s decision to cut school funding immediately even took many of his own party members by surprise.

School districts throughout the state have recently received notice that all local 2005 Basic Grants will be reduced. It is important for the public to know that the funding formula for 2005 was passed and approved two years ago. We realize it is difficult for a legislature to estimate exactly what the school funding formula is going to generate for each district. That's why it's common practice in the second year of the state budget, for the General Assembly to approve a supplemental appropriation to fund the difference whenever their estimates have been off a little bit.

Schools already have their staff hired. Immediate cuts and lay-offs are not possible given the current state laws the legislature has saddled schools with. It will be difficult for local school boards to even decide by this fall what programs for children they need to eliminate. These decisions need to be made in the next two months by each school board in order to meet state laws governing lay-offs in education. The public will not view this surprise announcement as "more open" government.

Schools across Indiana are aware that the state has financial problems and has to do something about it. However, patrons probably don’t know that about 85-90% of the General Fund in most school districts is used for personnel costs. That means that there can be no reductions in funding without cuts in personnel which means services to children. Many schools have already frozen salaries for 2004-05 due to the levy shortfalls. Many legislatures don’t seem to realize that a “flat-line” budget doesn’t flatline insurance increases, utility increases or the long list of unfunded mandates (Click on link for new Indiana graduation requirements in today's Indy Star - passed with no fiscal study as usual) passed down by legislatures everywhere.

The Indiana General Assembly is responsible for developing and passing the budget. It then goes to the Governor for signature or veto. The General Assembly has an obligation and responsibility to meet this commitment. Schools leaders are willing to help state officials overcome their financial problems, but we must have enough time to
further reduce our expenses. Giving shortfall notice after we have started a new budget year does not give us adequate time to make the necessary cuts, nor does it appeal to the greater public as a "more open" and "more ethical" government.

I think “The Blade” is closed. Or…. maybe just not very sharp.


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