A new reality: Funding formula changes and property tax caps and their effects on the role of the school superintendent in the state of Indiana

Patrick L Gentry, Purdue University


The purpose of this qualitative study was to discover how school superintendents were using general fund referenda to meet their school district’s operational budgets. However, after interviews began it became clear that the superintendents wanted to tell a different story and that was how the current school funding mechanism and property tax caps has changed the job of the school superintendent. The research consisted of one-on-one guided interviews of a mixed qualitative methods framework combining theories of hermeneutics and phenomenology. The interviews combined open-ended, guided questions and conversations and were with superintendents who were leaders of school districts that have passed general fund referenda. Each of the superintendents worked for school districts that were in the top 50 national schools, as reported by USA News and World Report, serve affluent communities and serve a low free and reduced lunch population of less than 20% of their student population. Data collected came directly from the interviews and were framed and verified within the context of newspaper articles, public blogs, and public social media posts. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, organized, and coded using a modified data analysis table, which combined elements of item analysis and an unfolding matrix. Hermeneutic phenomenology was used to understand the superintendents’ understanding of the phenomena that is a general fund referendum campaign and their role during its passage. The purpose of this study evolved into how the superintendents perceive their role in light of their new financial realities, which is driven by changes in how schools are funded and the institution of property tax caps. This study is intended to inform current and future superintendents with guidance in how important political communication is for successful execution of the duties of a superintendent. In addition, this study should guide superintendent preparation programs by showing the importance of training and internships for future superintendents in the skills of effective political communication and managing political campaigns.




Hirth, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Education finance|Educational leadership|School administration|Political science

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