Kids' complexities require added funding
28 Feb 2023 — Journal Gazette
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Anne Duff

As a school board member in 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.

Those in other large urban districts as well as those in smaller, rural communities have witnessed the same.

Those of us with students such as 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, English-language learning, tutoring programs, pull-out programs - essentials for our most needy.

Whether it's my district or others around the state, 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 in time for school. Coming to school hungry.

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 on these services, yet the state only gave $345 million. That is about 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 third 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.

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.

Anne Duff of Fort Wayne, a member of the Fort Wayne Community Schools board, wrote this on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Fort Wayne.

To learn more about this topic and other public education issues, attend An Education Update with Jennifer McCormick and Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer in the Auditorium at the downtown Allen County Library at 6 p.m. Wednesday.duffAnne

This story is provided free courtesy of The Journal.
"Kids' complexities require added funding" Journal Gazette 28 Feb 2023: A9