Top GOP lawmaker says schools might see less funding if all classes taught online

A top Indiana Republican lawmaker is warning schools to prepare for 15% less in base funding per student if all classes are taught virtually this fall.

Indiana Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray sent a letter to school leaders on Thursday that said there’s “no guarantee” schools that choose not to resume any in-person classes due to pandemic health and safety concerns will receive 100% of the expected funding.

Sen. Rodric Bray

Under state law, schools receive only 85% of their per-pupil funding for students who receive at least half of their instruction virtually.

In June, Gov. Eric Holcomb promised that K-12 schools would not face cuts in state funding for the next school year and said he supported the Indiana Department of Education’s decision to fund schools at the regular rate for all students, regardless of whether they were receiving instruction virtually or in-person.

Holcomb also said at the time that his administration and leaders of the Indiana General Assembly were in agreement on this issue.

“I think it’s very important as we move through the coming months to know that there is some certainty,” Holcomb said during the June 17 press conference.

In the letter, Bray acknowledged there is a commitment to provide 100% of funding for students choosing virtual education this fall. But he reminded school leaders that state lawmakers still have to approve that change in the funding formula.

“I believe there is a strong appetite for making that change,” Bray wrote in the letter. “However, 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.”

He said schools that don’t offer any in-person classes should expect to operate under the existing funding formula, which would mean 15% less in funding per student.

“I know it is difficult to operate with uncertainty,” Bray wrote. “My hope is this letter may provide a bit more clarity as schools begin to open across Indiana.”

The new guidance from Bray could cause a significant issue for some schools. Indianapolis Public Schools, for example, plans to keep brick and mortar schools closed and operate under an all-virtual format until at least October due to concerns about COVID-19.

A spokeswoman for Holcomb did not immediately respond to IBJ’s request for comment.

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick, a Republican, said she and other school officials were “extremely disappointed” with Bray’s letter.

“The fluidity created by this pandemic has already added undue burden to districts who are focused on establishing and maintaining safe learning environments for students and staff,” she said in a written statement. “A potential 15 percent cut per pupil is not sustainable at a time districts are working hard to create multiple learning platforms. Penalizing districts who cannot offer onsite instruction leads to dangerous decision making. I urge Governor Holcomb to honor the promise he made to Hoosier children to provide sustainable funding to K-12 schools, by calling a special session to address this concern. We must do better for our children and families.”

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16 thoughts on “Top GOP lawmaker says schools might see less funding if all classes taught online

  1. Wow. Another clueless politician, they just don’t get it! There are teachers, principals, and other essential workers who would be in bad shape if they were to get COVID-19. There is already a teacher shortage now, imagine if the schools were all “ordered” to bring the kids back in, and no longer offer all-virtual at this time; just look at what is happening to schools around the US.

    Stop the bullying and put yourself in their shoes Mr. Bray.

    1. “Under state law, schools receive only 85% of their per-pupil funding for students who receive at least half of their instruction virtually.”
      Not sure how he is clueless he was just stating there is a law on the books and legislators need to address a change in funding that there is an appetite for.

    2. Bray also said he didn’t see the need to fix the issue until January. So it would appear that he doesn’t quite have the same appetite for addressing the issue.

  2. This is encouraging news. Should cut more than 15% if they don’t open though. This doesn’t take into account what we as property tax payors are paying each year for local schools. Fortunately schools in my area are reopening, but if they didn’t I would be demanding a refund of at least 75% of my property taxes allocated to schools.

    1. So, most of the schools expenses stay the same as they try to virtually educate kids and they should get less money because they don’t feel it’s responsible to get their students and educators sick with a virus with still unknown long-term consequences?

      So in Elkhart, where the virus is so bad the county health department won’t let schools open, they should get what they’ve got coming?

    2. John M. – I assume you don’t have school-age kids, otherwise you’d have some compassion for the students and parents, plus the teachers who may or may not be in the “high-risk” category, but certainly have family who are. I understand that in some respects schools don’t need as much funding to operate if they don’t have to open doors and feed kids, but at the same time, there are ample costs in virtual learning too. If you wish to support Mr. Bray in muddying the waters of this already complicated year even moreso — I hope he’ll call a press conference — and you should attend — within an operating school, in a classroom packed with 30 kids, a teacher and a TA, all of you hoping the person you just made eye contact with doesn’t have COVID.

  3. Teachers are still teaching. Schools districts are operating. Education is still happening. Even working remote, costs are still there. Even if schools are operating at a savings (which I doubt they are at much of a savings), those savings are going to be chewed up the moment they are back in-person with the added costs for additional janitorial, cleaning supplies, and other safety features.

    For school systems that don’t have physical classrooms, the reduced amount of funding makes sense. For schools that have physical classrooms such as IPS, the reduced funding is like salt in an open wound – and it Senator Bray and those politicians that don’t fix the funding for this year that are tossing in the salt. #KidsFirst #SafetyFirst

    1. Sarah P., Yes, Covid 19 has become a political issue now, this response is in answer to the Teacher’s Union threatening to strike or have sick-outs. Data shows kids are not at risk. If there are teachers/administrators at risk, have them do the virtual learning, it’s not that hard to find solutions if you want to. The Teachers Unions are trying to keep as many schools as possible shut down to keep the economy from recovering. Just think back to two months ago when all of the re-opening plans were laid-out, nobody said a negative word. But, then President Trump says re-open the schools and we have a sudden backlash led by the National Teachers Union, ask yourself why?

    2. Rod B. – Those reopening plans were made with the expectation of case counts and positive infection rates going down over summer. Then a lot of uninformed (and intentionally ignorant) people decided they were done with taking precautions when the summer weather and holidays rolled around.

      If more people actually took the recommended precautions and stopped treating this global pandemic like some conspiracy theory or a huge infringement on their rights we MAY have actually been able to open schools safely. You want the economy to reopen? Then start taking this thing seriously and encouraging everyone you know to do the same. The longer people refuse to take the necessary steps to reduce the spread of this virus the longer we’ll be waiting in limbo to get back to a sense of normal

    3. Joseph W. If the experts are correct, how you have to start every sentence when discussing Covid, then 60% to 80% of us are going to catch Covid, that’s 4 out of 5 people, until when/if there is a vaccine. And, in the past two months we have had a huge increase in testing, 10,000 to 12,000 tests on a weekday from maybe 3,000 a day in March and April. So, what we now know, and must work with, is that more testing means more positive results, but the positive percentage rate has been steadily declining in the process, now under 8%, and unless you are over 60 or have some other compromising condition, it is like the common cold virus. I do take this very seriously, I wear a mask like requested/required, but I also fully expect to catch Covid at some point unless we reach herd immunity or a vaccine is developed, whichever comes first. (and herd immunity only works if the antibodies stay with you like a “normal” virus situation)

  4. There are online platforms that teach kids virtually every year. If schools do not want to open, then the school systems should simply contract with some other online platform to deliver the education. There is no need for every 3rd grade teacher to develop their own online presence to teach 25 kids at a time. We have the technology to roll this out nationwide. It’s the teachers who are actually holding back the education here. If schools don’t want to offer in-person schooling, we have a technological solution that obviates them–at tremendous savings. Keep this in mind. When the teachers don’t want to teach (for whatever reason), there is a cheaper, perhaps better alternative. And, if the kids don’t need to be in school to learn, there’s really no NEED to keep these expensive buildings around.

    1. Are you a parent of children, and did you have children who did e-learning this spring? I answer yes to both, and I don’t know of one single fellow parent who came out of the experience thinking teachers could be replaced en masse by technology, nor did any of them come out of it thinking that teachers are the problem.

      Nor does your “solution” talk about replacing any of the benefits of in-person education. Learning that the world is full of other people different than you, but in a lot of ways similar to you, is a feature (not a bug) of public education. How will you replace that with people you only know as squares on a screen?

      Furthermore, with no school buildings for kids to return to, exactly how is the America economy going to get back to normal? Doesn’t matter how many jobs there are, if you have to stay home and make sure the kids are fed and the devices keep working, you’re not going to be in the workforce.

      The solution to the “schools issue” is simple – get the virus under control. That would require Americans to think of the greater good and work towards a common interest, though, and we’re not capable of that any longer.

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