INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
The Indiana State Board of Education approved a method to maintain funding
for schools reopening virtually this fall after warnings of possible cuts
from lawmakers last month.
unanimously approved the plan Wednesday, allowing the state to use data from
the last student count in February to determine whether schools should
receive full funding for their students, regardless of whether those
students are receiving instruction virtually or in the classroom this
resolution differs from Gov. Eric Holcomb’s initial request to preserve
current school funding, however.
Last month, the
governor proposed delaying the student count altogether after school leaders
expressed concern about a letter from Indiana’s Senate president, Republican
Rod Bray, that alluded to possible budget cuts for schools not offering an
in-person option for students, despite the ongoing coronavirus threat.
that state law caps per-pupil funding for students who take at least half
their classes virtually at 85% of basic tuition support. That would mean
school districts that only offered online instruction to minimize the
potential spread of COVID-19 could lose 15% of their basic per-student
funding, which would be $855 per student.
and other state leaders promised in June that schools would remain fully
funded during the pandemic regardless of whether students are attending
class in-person or online, Bray’s notice put millions of dollars in school
funding on the line, given that dozens of school districts around the state
decided to start the school year entirely online.
Under the board of
education’s new plan, the fall student count day will happen as planned on
Sept 18, but school budgets won’t be penalized for offering instruction only
Students will not
be counted as “virtual” - meaning schools won’t see the 15% reduction in
basic per student funding - as long as they were not enrolled in a full-time
virtual education program on the previous enrollment count day. Students who
attended school virtually in February and remain virtual students now will
continue to be funded at the 85% level.
superintendent Jennifer McCormick said in a news release that she was
“pleased” the state’s board of education took action, noting that the
original guidance from the Indiana Department of Education called for “100
percent funding” for affected students who are receiving virtual instruction
because of the pandemic.
During his weekly
news conference Wednesday, Holcomb praised the resolution for “getting this
issue resolved ... so schools can have the funding that is needed to educate
students during these unprecedented times.”
But the amendment
to the student count is only a temporary commitment to retain school
“We do have to
remember that this solution isn’t a permanent one,” said Terry Spradlin,
Executive Director of the Indiana School Boards Association. “But for now,
it’s suitable to help us navigate through the winter until February.”
The board’s fix
will last until the next student count day in February 2021, Spradlin said.
State legislators will still have to decide during their next session
whether they’ll change the current law surrounding virtual student funding
or whether they’ll provide another solution to ensure full-funding for
schools until the end of the academic year.