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Hamilton Southeastern Schools To Sue State

Last updated on Tuesday, August 4, 2009

(CARMEL) - The Hamilton Southeastern Schools plan to sue the state over the School Funding Formula.

HSE is one of the fastest-growing districts in the state, adding about 850 students a year, but will receive 61 dollars less per pupil over the next two years.

Its total funding per pupil is just under half what the Gary Community Schools receive.

HSE Superintendent Brian Smith says he's interviewing four attorneys to see whose experience and resources are best suited to winning the case.

It'll be filed sometime after the district settles on a firm.

The suit will be the second school funding lawsuit heard this year.

The Indiana Supreme Court already rejected an Indiana State Teachers Association challenge calling Indiana's school funding inadequate.

Smith says HSE will be making a different argument.

The competing interests of shrinking urban districts and growing suburban ones was at the heart of the legislative budget stalemate that delayed approval of a new state budget until June 30, the last day to do so without shutting the government down.

The final compromise ensured all school districts would receive either an increase in total funding, as HSE did, or an increase in per-pupil funding.

That deal still left urban superintendents and some democratic legislators predicting the cuts could be fatal to urban schools, and accusing republicans of favoring the suburbs.

Smith says he understands and supports the extra money the school formula provides for districts with large numbers of low-income or non-English-speaking students.

But he contends the state has produced a system the last seven years which penalizes growing systems for their growth.

By next year, HSE expects to have the ninth-lowest per-pupil funding in the state.

HSE is putting off construction of a new junior high school.

Smith says the building is needed, but says there's no money to staff it.

The district will ask homeowners to approve a referendum raising property taxes about 1%, to close an anticipated annual deficit of $3.8 million.

Smith pledges the referendum will be rescinded if the lawsuit succeeds.

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