Head counts important for Indiana schools' funding

Schools get money from the state depending on how many students are enrolled.

Schools across Indiana are counting heads as educators and parents hold their breath.

Friday's enrollment totals in the state's classrooms determine the amount of money schools get this year to pay for the teachers and programs families count on to educate their children.

After years of falling enrollment, Lawrence Township schools saw a slight increase. Mary Castle Elementary School has two additional classes.

"It is exciting that parents and the community are behind us," said principal Carla Johnson, with a big smile.

Stable or increasing enrollment benefit schools battered by budget cuts in Lawrence. Picture it this way, the annual student count determines the entire district's financial picture. Each student is worth about $6,200 in state funding.

Years of declining enrollment put Indianapolis Public Schools in turmoil. Enrollment is down about a thousand students, far from the 4,000 IPS anticipated losing to families leaving the inner city, four schools taken over by the state and competing charter schools.

"From a stability standpoint, that his huge. I really do mean that," said IPS Superintendent Dr. Eugene White. "From a student's standpoint, it will be beneficial. It adds to our stability."

For the first time in years, White isn't expecting any major budget cuts. Previous enrollment drops led to budget cuts of tens of millions of dollars, school closings and a reduction in the numbers of teachers.

Door-to-door efforts to get students back in school are getting results.

"We go pound the street and beat on the doors," said social worker James Cullen.

"I was really scared of him," said IPS student Jordan Laswell.

Scared enough that Laswell got off her couch and back in school.

"I've got to get serious. It's time. I'm not a little kid anymore. I have to take the chance now. I am not going to get the chance again," Laswell said.

Counting every head means getting the funding schools count on to change lives.

For the first time, the state is requiring schools do a second student count in February. The enrollment numbers will show much enrollments are changing throughout the school year.

IPS numbers:

The Indianapolis Public Schools' (IPS) reported a total 2012-2013 enrollment of 30,128 students, just 1,500 students fewer than in 2011. The figure is impressive considering four IPS schools are being operated by private companies this school year.

"This is good news and shows the district is headed in the right direction. Our families and students had choices to make, and a majority of them chose to remain with us," said IPS Superintendent Dr. Eugene G. White.

The 2012-2013 enrollment figure was within the margin Dr. White predicted several months ago when many observers warned the district would lose a significant amount of its students to other schools. That did not occur.