(INDIANAPOLIS) — Governor Holcomb is trying to defuse a disagreement over school funding for schools which don’t resume in-person classes.
Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray (R-Martinsville) last week warned schools that a fully online semester would classify them under the law as virtual schools, which receive 15% less money per pupil. Holcomb says he’ll join Bray and House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) in asking the State Board of Education to delay the enrollment count date which determines that money, from September to December.
While the law on the enrollment count predates the pandemic, it includes a provision allowing the board to delay the count if a school is facing “extreme patterns of illness or other unusual conditions.”
Holcomb says by December, it’s possible schools now online could be back in the classroom. If they’re not, Holcomb says the delay means legislators will be able to address the issue soon afterward when they begin their session in January.
Holcomb says the delay should give schools enough certainty to make decisions in the best interests of their students without worrying about their funding. He says it’s preferable for students to be in the classroom, but if that’s not safe, parents need to be confident there’s a safe alternative.
Holcomb says he’s committed to ensuring schools receive the full funding they were expecting. But a statement from Bray, released by Holcomb’s office, says only that legislators “can take a fresh look at these statutes in light of the pandemic to ensure schools are adequately funded.”
Republican state school superintendent Jennifer McCormick says the delay is only that — a delay. She says schools deserve a full solution to the funding dilemma, and says her staff is still studying potential consequences of the delay. And Gary Senator Eddie Melton (D-Gary), a former State Board of Education member, slams the compromise as “political trickery.” He accuses Holcomb of kicking the can past the November election, with no guarantee schools will keep their full funding when the count is finally taken.
At least 35 school districts are starting the year online with no firm date for resuming in-class instruction.