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COVID-19 school turmoil, teacher pay face Indiana lawmakers

The turmoil that Indiana schools have faced from the coronavirus pandemic will be a top concern of state legislators during their upcoming session, the leader of the Indiana House said Monday.

Posted: Nov 17, 2020 3:45 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The turmoil that Indiana schools have faced from the coronavirus pandemic will be a top concern of state legislators during their upcoming session, the leader of the Indiana House said Monday.

Indiana lawmakers will take the first formal steps toward their 2021 session when they gather at the Statehouse on Tuesday for the Legislature’s organizational meetings. It will also be the first meeting of the House and Senate since the coronavirus pandemic was first sweeping across the country in March.

Republican House Speaker Todd Huston said he was worried about children possibly having more than a year of their education disrupted by the pandemic.

Schools across the state were closed for the final months of last school year out of coronavirus concerns. Indiana schools largely resumed in-person classes this fall, but many have shifted to more virtual classes in recent weeks amid sharp increases in COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations and confirmed new infections.

A focus of state officials needs to be on how to help students catch up, Huston said during an online program with other legislative leaders sponsored by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

“This wasn’t the schools’ fault, the teachers’ fault, the parents’ fault, the kids’ fault. This was just a unique time,” Huston said. “We’re going to have to figure out how we walk hand in hand to help support, particularly low-income students who, I think, have felt disproportionately the challenge of this pandemic.”

Tests have confirmed COVID-19 infections among more than 8,200 students and 1,600 teachers across Indiana since the start of the current school year, according to a weekly state health department report updated Monday. Indiana’s coronavirus hospitalizations are up about 250% since late September.

When the new legislative session starts in January, lawmakers will face drafting a new two-year state budget with uncertainties about state tax collections during the national recession and whether Congress will eventually approve additional financial assistance for states.

State officials in September approved a method to maintain full funding for school districts regardless of whether they were offering instruction virtually or in the classroom during this fall semester. Legislators will likely have to take up that issue because current state law caps per-pupil funding for students who take at least half their classes virtually at 85% of full in-person student funding.

During the Legislature’s Organization Day last year, thousands of teachers flooded the Statehouse to demand increased teacher pay. The Republican-dominated Legislature didn’t boost education funding during its 2020 session and a teacher pay commission appointed by GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb in 2019 hasn’t yet released its recommendations.

The state’s largest teachers union argued Monday that lawmakers need to take action regarding Indiana’s lagging teacher pay and increased stress on educators during the pandemic.

If not addressed, teacher resignations and retirements “will only worsen,” as will the ongoing teacher shortage, Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill said.

“We are advocating for lawmakers to keep their promises to fully and equitably fund our public schools, to pay our teachers as professionals and not to cut K-12 education funding in the coming session,” Gambill said. “We must ensure that students do not pay the price in this pandemic, nor can we afford to fall further behind on addressing teacher pay.”

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 662213

Reported Deaths: 12595
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion907061645
Lake48425878
Allen35861636
Hamilton32099397
St. Joseph29996512
Elkhart25386415
Vanderburgh21247378
Tippecanoe20024201
Johnson16349360
Porter15975270
Hendricks15825300
Clark11965181
Madison11746318
Vigo11612229
Monroe10333161
Delaware9838179
LaPorte9772196
Howard9056197
Kosciusko8562110
Bartholomew7456147
Warrick7416151
Hancock7409131
Floyd7207169
Wayne6633191
Grant6427157
Morgan6092125
Boone609088
Dubois5910111
Dearborn547467
Cass544499
Marshall5425104
Henry542393
Noble509378
Jackson464767
Shelby460690
Lawrence4184112
Gibson401281
Harrison399864
Clinton395853
Montgomery387083
DeKalb385278
Knox357485
Miami357463
Whitley349436
Huntington344476
Steuben338355
Wabash331476
Putnam330559
Ripley327161
Adams323549
Jasper316143
White297352
Jefferson294973
Daviess285396
Fayette271956
Decatur270888
Greene261280
Posey260931
Wells258275
Scott250350
Clay241444
LaGrange240870
Randolph225576
Spencer217330
Jennings215244
Washington211227
Sullivan203439
Fountain201542
Starke188151
Owen182153
Fulton178237
Jay177828
Carroll176518
Perry173235
Orange171250
Rush164822
Vermillion160542
Franklin159435
Tipton146441
Parke139316
Pike127632
Blackford120627
Pulaski106444
Newton96531
Brown95039
Benton92013
Crawford90713
Martin80114
Warren75814
Switzerland7548
Union67110
Ohio53711
Unassigned0433

COVID-19 Important links and resources

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