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Family-Centered, Community-Focused Proposal


How MCCSC funded early childhood education and school supplies increases equity in educational opportunities. - Dr. Jeff Hauswald


By any measure, Monroe County Community School Corporation is an exceptional district.

Statistics and rankings tell part of the story: Quality education at great value. MCCSC student growth, student proficiency and graduation rates all exceed state averages. Our graduation rate of 92.6 percent surpasses the statewide average. Experts who scrutinize and rank school districts take notice - well beyond south central Indiana. Niche, a nationwide education rating agency, ranks MCCSC 12th among Indiana’s 291 public school districts.

As for value? MCCSC is among the lowest 10% of all taxing rates among all Indiana school districts.

Our schools owe their success to a supportive Board of School Trustees, dedicated staff and - so importantly - a community that values public education. You’ve seen “I Heart MCCSC” signs and T-shirts and stickers throughout the community. It’s not an empty slogan. In a 2023 community survey, 80% of respondents gave MCCSC an A or B grade. The national average for this question is only 54%.

In addition, community members have buttressed that support with their votes and financial investment. Our residents know that strong schools contribute to a strong community. They understand that quality schools foster economic growth and boost property values. They see how equity in education benefits marginalized families. Three times in 13 years, the community has approved referendums:

  • In 2010, after the State Legislature slashed public school funding, residents approved an operating levy that allowed the district to restore teaching positions, strengthen programs and replenish an operating balance. 

  • In 2016, voters renewed the 2010 operating levy, which otherwise would have expired.

  • In 2022, voters renewed the 2016 levy at a level comparable to the 2010 rate when factoring in inflation. In addition to renewing program commitments dating to 2010, this allowed MCCSC to ensure high quality staffing through competitive pay.

For all of its many strengths, MCCSC knows that no district can afford to stand still or rest on its laurels in a rapidly changing and competitive environment. Unfunded needs remain - in part because the Indiana State Legislature continues to give lip service to helping public schools while failing to deliver in meaningful ways.

By listening to families and local employers and by surveying community members, MCCSC knows that the community will benefit if we address currently unfunded services, such as:

  • Early childhood education, particularly for 3- and 4-year-olds

  • Textbooks, the cost of which disproportionately burdens lower-income families.

  • Instructional supplies, the cost of which again disproportionately affects lower-income families.

  • Computers.

  • AP exams and professional certificates that lower the cost of post-secondary education and give our graduates a head start on their next chapters.

Together, these constitute a family-centered community focus that we’re asking the community to support.

The case for high quality early childhood education is so compelling. A child’s brain develops faster from birth to age 4 or 5 than any other time, and early childhood education aids that development. Children enrolled in high quality Pre-K programs show accelerated gains in ELA (language) and math kindergarten readiness. Access to high quality education bolsters future learning, social skills and overall health. Children who participate in high-quality preschool programs are 40 percent less likely to drop out of school. Early learning programs help close the equity gap among students from low-income families. 

Unfortunately, fewer than half of 3- and 4-year-olds in our community are now enrolled in preschool programs. The barriers? Cost and a shortage of available slots. While quality early childhood services do exist, the need for expansion is clear. Quality programs can cost up to $8,000 annually, putting these benefits out of reach for many families.

Consider, too, the related family financial benefit for families and the community economic advantages of expanding early childhood education. Again, numbers help tell the story. Among parents of students in Indiana’s Pre-K pilot program:

  • 50% were able to increase work hours

  • 35% were able to find new employment

  • 33% were able to begin their own schooling

According to the Bloomington 2021 Census, individuals with children under 6 years old had a labor participation rate of only 74.4%, compared to an 83.6% rate for individuals with children ranging in age from 6 to 17 years.

Knowing that MCCSC could benefit the entire community by offering an initiative built around early childhood education, we took several steps:

  • conducting a community survey

  • meeting with existing early childhood education providers

  • convening an advisory committee of key stakeholders and inviting additional community input

From this process, we found consensus support for a family-centered, community-focused initiative that we will take to voters in November. This initiative, with associated annual cost, consists of:

  • Free Pre-K for 3-year-olds whose families meet free/reduced lunch guidelines, for an annual cost of $2.5 million.

  • Free or reduced-cost 4-year-old Pre-K, for an annual cost of $3.5 million.

  • District-paid instructional materials, testing fees and student technology devices, for an annual cost of $1.25 million.

  • Career and technical education tuition and fees, for an annual cost of $1.25 million.

The cost for all of this on a home with a $250,000 assessed value is $50 a year. While residents might naturally prefer no increases, a $50 hike – for perspective – is roughly the cost of three pizzas over the course of a year or one fountain soft drink per week.

As for the returns on this investment? They are immense. Consider a family with a 3-year-old and a high school sophomore. For a $50 annual property tax increase, this family would, for their 3-year-old, gain access to child care valued at $8,000 and instructional resources valued at $150. For their high school students, they would receive $450 worth of instructional resources and testing certification fees. For the $50 annual investment, this family would save $8,550. 

All of this can be achieved by boosting our current referendum tax rate of $0.185 by $0.085 - to a total of $0.27. This scenario drew the support of a majority of residents in a phone survey this year. And while our ballot question will cite an $0.085 increase, the actual net impact would be only about $0.0325, because of our community’s increasing assessed valuation, combined with the State Legislature’s imposed limit on levy increases.

A community whose belief in the power of quality public education now has an opportunity to demonstrate that support once more: In ways that aid the local economy as well as families with school-aged children and will positively shape the lives of our youngest children throughout their lives.    

Dr. Jeff Hauswald, Superintendent of the Monroe County Community School Corporation