Indiana lawmakers push for full-funding for schools teaching remotely during pandemic

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INDIANAPOLIS (WANE) — Indiana lawmakers are working on identical COVID-related bills to secure funding for schools during the pandemic.

Due to the circumstances of the pandemic, traditional in-person schools are in the position of having to offer virtual courses, which is pushing them into the virtual category.

Currently, schools that are considered “virtual” are reimbursed at a lower rate compared to schools with traditional in-person learning. Prior to the pandemic, if a student received 50 percent or more of his or her education virtually, the school district would receive only 85 percent – essentially a 15 percent cut in funding.

“These in-person schools have facilities and infrastructure where the cost doesn’t go away,” explained Representative Hal Slager (R-15th District). “The teachers are still doing their job, in fact now they have to make sure they are covering the virtual instruction as well as the in-person instruction.”

House Bill 1003 was authored by Rep. Slager and Senate Bill 02 was authored by Senator Jeff Raatz (R-27th District). Both bills clarify and codify Governor Eric Holcomb’s executive order to continue funding schools this term.

Without these bills, K-12 schools could lose up to $164 million.

“That’s a lot of money, 85% versus 100%,” said Representative Dave Heine (R-85th District). “This takes the stress off the table, stress off of the teachers. They know they are going to be fully funded.”

“This is all related to COVID,” Raatz said. “It was necessary for us to make sure that traditional public schools were kept whole, they created their budget based on a census at the number of students at 100 percent. If we cut that by 15 percent, they will have issues with their budget.”

Since schools have a February deadline to submit its student count, both bills are expected to be fast tracked.

Last week, HB1003 was read and voted on unanimously by the Ways and Means committee, and is now moving to House Floor. Sen. Raatz said that he believes SB2 will be voted out of the Education and Career Development committee this week.

Governor Holcomb sent WANE 15’s Briana Brownlee this statement:

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