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Indiana lawmakers pass bill to ensure school funding

A Senate bill aimed at ensuring Indiana’s public schools receive full funding for all students during the coronavirus pandemic is headed to the governor after lawmakers fast-tracked its passage Tuesday.

Posted: Mar 18, 2021 9:18 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A Senate bill aimed at ensuring Indiana’s public schools receive full funding for all students during the coronavirus pandemic is headed to the governor after lawmakers fast-tracked its passage Tuesday.

The bill redefines what constitutes a “virtual student” and ensures schools receive full funding for all students, regardless of whether they are receiving instruction virtually or in the classroom due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A twice-yearly count of students attending schools is used to determine how much money the state allots to each facility. According to the Senate bill, students will not be counted as “virtual” in the most recent fall and spring counts, even if most or all of their learning takes place online.

Without that change, an estimated $160 million would be on the line for schools using hybrid formats or offering instruction online only as a means to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19. 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.

The proposal prompted criticism from virtual learning supporters who questioned why the 85% rule exists at all, noting that the legislation exempts regularly fulltime virtual schools.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ryan Mishler additionally argued that the bill encourages kids to stay home and receive virtual education, which he said causes them to fall behind.

Most Indiana schools offered both in-person and online options this school year, though some have gone fully virtual at times during periods of peak coronavirus spread.

Still, the bill is a temporary fixes because they would expire at the end of the spring 2021 semester. While Democratic lawmakers requested extensions — in addition to language that would always exempt brick-and-mortar schools from the 85% reduction in funding — Rep. Tim Brown, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said lawmakers would wait to make decisions about future school funding until after larger state budget models are discussed.

State officials in September approved a similar method to maintain full funding for school districts during the fall semester. Legislators are now the ones tasked with finding a funding solution for the second half of the academic year.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb is expected to sign the legislation. He has maintained that he’s committed to not cutting education funding — even as other state agencies have reduced budgets. He also promised school leaders last summer they would receive 100% of state funding for each of their students, no matter how they receive their instruction.

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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: 1118335

Reported Deaths: 17712
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1455892240
Lake724831254
Allen67063882
Hamilton51060487
St. Joseph49820649
Elkhart40268546
Vanderburgh34714497
Tippecanoe30808276
Johnson27696467
Hendricks26313385
Porter25657386
Madison21131455
Clark20238279
Vigo19059309
LaPorte17192261
Howard16770314
Delaware16761303
Monroe16628220
Kosciusko14293167
Hancock13113186
Bartholomew12983190
Warrick12210190
Wayne12090269
Floyd12011226
Grant11998245
Morgan10409192
Boone9869124
Noble9316122
Henry9177169
Marshall9152147
Dearborn8970100
Dubois8835140
Shelby8281130
Cass8167128
Lawrence8057185
DeKalb7817109
Jackson770793
Huntington7661115
Gibson7102118
Montgomery7101123
Harrison6954100
Knox6915116
Steuben669089
Whitley659660
Miami6595113
Putnam645085
Clinton627179
Wabash6221111
Jasper613192
Jefferson5856105
Ripley557294
Adams542281
Daviess5076117
Scott491580
Wells4836105
White478469
Greene4701101
Clay464662
Decatur4611110
Fayette452496
Jennings452067
LaGrange427491
Posey410044
Randolph3944107
Washington390956
Fountain375964
Fulton364874
Spencer362247
Starke355574
Owen353577
Sullivan348555
Orange331372
Jay331050
Rush309533
Carroll296239
Franklin292744
Perry290553
Vermillion283658
Tipton251167
Parke250130
Pike248644
Blackford222144
Pulaski210359
Newton182452
Brown177550
Crawford169129
Benton168417
Martin152120
Switzerland147612
Warren135816
Union122616
Ohio92413
Unassigned0595

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