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Indiana Senate leader warns less funding for schools online

Indiana's Senate president warned public schools in a letter that they could face budget cuts if they don't hold in-person classes this year, despite prior assurances from Gov. Eric Holcomb and other state leaders that schools would remain fully funded.

Posted: Aug 7, 2020 12:42 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana's Senate president warned public schools in a letter that they could face budget cuts if they don't hold in-person classes this year, despite prior assurances from Gov. Eric Holcomb and other state leaders that schools would remain fully funded.

Republican Rod Bray told school leaders in the letter sent Thursday that he wants to “make sure they understand” that state law currently caps per-pupil funding for students who take at least half their classes virtually to 85% of basic tuition support.

That means school districts only offering online instruction to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19 could lose 15% of their basic per student funding, equivalent to losing $855 in funding per student.

More than 30 districts are already planning to start their school years online, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said during a Thursday webinar. For those schools, millions of dollars — before thought to be safe — are now on the line.

McCormick said in a statement late Thursday that she is “extremely disappointed” with Bray’s letter. The state superintendent is now calling on Holcomb to hold a special legislative session to “honor the promise he made to Hoosier children to provide sustainable funding to K-12 schools.”

Holcomb promised in June that Indiana's public schools would not face funding cuts during the upcoming fiscal year, despite coronavirus-fueled state revenue losses and budget cuts to other state agencies. The governor further said he supports fully funding all students enrolled in the state’s public schools, whether they’re attending class in-person or online.

“Not only have our K-12 schools been spared the knife — or a cut in their budgets — even while a global pandemic has truly washed upon our shores, but this just underscores the priority or the importance that was place at this very foundational level," Holcomb said June 17.

In his letter, Bray reiterated there is still "a strong appetite” for the governor’s pledge, but said changing the law would require legislation to be passed by the General Assembly.

Even then, Bray cautioned school leaders: “There is no guarantee such an exception will be made for schools that don’t give families the option of in-person instruction in a school building.”

Holcomb has been urged by legislative Democrats to bring the General Assembly back in a special session before its scheduled in January. The governor has not agreed to do so however, saying in July a special session wasn’t “on my agenda right now.”

Holcomb’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Bray's letter follows threats by President Donald Trump to hold back federal money if school districts don’t bring their students back in the fall. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, too, has said that anything less than a full reopening would be a failure for students and taxpayers.

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Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 667736

Reported Deaths: 12744
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion914111660
Lake48769893
Allen36211646
Hamilton32522398
St. Joseph30414514
Elkhart25548420
Vanderburgh21347382
Tippecanoe20259205
Johnson16497363
Porter16097281
Hendricks15967302
Clark12093182
Madison11815323
Vigo11702234
Monroe10445164
Delaware9903179
LaPorte9850201
Howard9134203
Kosciusko8600111
Bartholomew7533147
Hancock7476134
Warrick7459153
Floyd7271173
Wayne6666192
Grant6467158
Boone619591
Morgan6142129
Dubois5947112
Dearborn551770
Cass5493100
Marshall5457105
Henry544495
Noble514078
Jackson465967
Shelby463691
Lawrence4198113
Gibson406185
Harrison404165
Clinton398153
Montgomery392284
DeKalb388478
Miami358563
Knox357886
Whitley352838
Huntington351377
Steuben340656
Putnam335060
Wabash334076
Ripley328263
Adams327049
Jasper319643
White298553
Jefferson296574
Daviess286196
Fayette272956
Decatur271688
Greene263080
Posey261832
Wells259276
Scott252350
LaGrange242670
Clay241644
Randolph226577
Spencer219630
Jennings217044
Washington213527
Sullivan203839
Fountain202942
Starke190251
Owen184454
Fulton180037
Jay178828
Carroll177019
Perry174236
Orange171451
Rush165722
Vermillion161643
Franklin160235
Tipton150341
Parke140216
Pike128633
Blackford120727
Pulaski107844
Newton96932
Brown95340
Benton92613
Crawford92613
Martin80314
Warren76014
Switzerland7568
Union67510
Ohio54211
Unassigned0429

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