The Journal Gazette
Thursday, January 07, 2021 1:00 am

General Assembly

School funding bill gets 1st pass

Accounts for move to virtual in pandemic

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – A move to ensure full funding for schools this year passed its first hurdle Wednesday.

The House Ways and Means Committee unanimously approved House Bill 1003 and sent it to the full floor for action.

GOP leaders are fast-tracking the measure so that schools are not punished for moving virtual during the pandemic.

“Our biggest concern is the loss of millions of dollars to K-12 if something isn't done about this issue,” said Dennis Costerison, executive director of the Indiana Association of School Business Officials.

State law says schools only get 85% of funding if students receive instruction virtually. But it was written for full-time virtual schools with no brick-and-mortar needs. During the pandemic some schools have provided hybrid options and others were ordered virtual by local health departments.

The State Board of Education took temporary action last year to delay the student count date to February. That count is what is used to distribute state funding. Lawmakers still need to act to keep schools whole this school year.

Without the bill, Indiana schools would lose $164 million, the fiscal note said. That is the difference between 100% and 85% funding. The state already appropriated the full amount.

Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis, suggested changing the bill so it extends through June 2022 instead of June 2021.

“We cannot be assured the health crisis will be behind us,” he said.

Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, said that discussion might be included when lawmakers craft a new two-year state budget.

The school funding fix could see a vote by the full House next week.

The Senate is moving an identical bill. The plan is to have it passed and singed by governor in the next few weeks.

Sign up for our daily headlines newsletter

Top headlines are sent daily