House Democrats on record for fully funding Indiana schools

...from August 6, 2020:

State Representative Melanie Wright (D-Yorktown) today commented on Indiana Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray's letter reversing prior promises from Governor Eric Holcomb to fully fund schools returning virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Sent after dozens of schools have already planned for or welcomed back students, Bray said schools offering only virtual instruction should plan on operating with significantly reduced funding.

Current budget guidelines state that students receiving half or more of their education virtually will receive only 85% of the funding allotted to traditional students. Holcomb previously promised schools would not face cuts; however, the commitment to holding K-12 schools to pre-pandemic rules would mean school districts offering only virtual instruction would receive about $850 less per student.

“Schools have swiftly answered the calls from state leadership to create a safe, productive learning environment under the guise that they would be fully funded regardless of their choices,” Wright said. “As a teacher who has recently returned to the classroom, I have seen firsthand COVID-19's impact on a school district and the many factors that have and will go into future instructional decisions. Legislators should be working to secure resources, not taking them away.”


...from August 7, 2020:

Yesterday, Indiana President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray sent a letter to school corporations threatening to cut funding despite previous promises from Governor Eric Holcomb. Bray's letter warns that schools not returning to full-time in-person instruction would be subject to current law, cutting funding per pupil by 15 percent. State Representative Carey Hamilton (D-Indianapolis) released the following statement in response to Bray's letter:

“While Senator Bray was threatening to cut funds to Hoosier schools, Indiana had its worst COVID-19 day to date,” Hamilton said. “This pandemic is real and is not going away any time soon. State government should be supporting schools as they try to offer a safe learning experience, not discouraging it.

“Instead, Bray's announcement puts schools in an even tougher spot. Republicans have insisted that how schools reopen should be a local decision, and the Governor has stated that schools would be made financially whole throughout the pandemic. 

“Bray's announcement pressures schools to choose vital funding over the health of students and our communities. Indeed, schools that have opted for virtual instruction under promises of full funding now stand to lose millions of desperately needed dollars. Our schools and students need a lifeline, not an anchor. I strongly encourage Senator Bray to reconsider his position.

“In the coming days, I will be reaching out to Governor Holcomb and State Superintendent McCormick to work to secure full funding for our schools.”


...from August 7, 2020:

State Representative Blake Johnson (D-Indianapolis) today released the following statement after schools received a letter yesterday from Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) stating that schools who choose to operate virtually will be at risk for funding cuts.

The letter states that students who receive half or more of their instruction online will be funded 15% less than traditional students. This percentage comes from the amount of funding virtual charter schools received per student, but does not take into account the fixed costs for public schools such as building rent, electricity, and school administration costs.

“It's inexcusable that legislative leaders would threaten further disinvestment in Hoosier public education simply because a school decides to protect their students from a public health crisis,” Johnson stated. “We are constantly asking educators to go above and beyond – to educate, empower and protect our children - but when they choose to go virtual for that exact reason, Republican legislative leaders threaten funding cuts.

“As local leaders and educators face these extraordinary challenges head-on, the Legislature should be fortifying and deepening our investment in public education, not asking districts to choose between their already limited funding and the health and safety of their students and staff.”


...from August 10, 2020:

State Representative Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) released the following comments after Indiana President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray sent a letter to school corporations threatening cuts to school funding. The letter warned school leaders that current law would be upheld, and districts that do not offer in-person instruction this fall would only receive 85 percent of expected funding.

On June 17, Governor Eric Holcomb promised the opposite to K-12 public schools, suggesting they would not face funding cuts based on local reopening choices. As recently as last week, Holcomb has repeated this claim.

Statehouse Republicans' reversal means schools now stand to lose more than $850 per pupil. Schools in DeLaney's district and across the state choosing not to return to school buildings in the fall have projected losses amounting to more than $27 million for Indianapolis Public Schools, and around $9 million for both Pike and Washington Township Schools.

“Bray's letter shows why the Democrats on the Indiana House Education Committee wrote the Governor back in June, and again in July where we insisted that schools would be guaranteed no lost revenue,” DeLaney said. “Republicans are breaking their promise to K-12 schools, students and taxpayers. Make no mistake: this is punitive action against schools that have moved from traditional in-person methods of education.

“With the way the current law is written, I am fearful that even those schools that have opted for a combination of in-person and online instruction could be in jeopardy.”

Most Hoosier schools have chosen a hybrid education system where students attend their classes in-person on set days, and then attend virtually on others. DeLaney fears that Bray's standards for funding cuts could also put schools using these methods at risk.

“It is disgraceful to watch my Republican colleagues attempt to undermine the decisions of local school districts,” DeLaney said. “I will continue to press Governor Holcomb and Republican legislators to make sure K-12 schools have the resources needed to succeed and do it safely.”


...from August 10, 2020:

State Representative Chris Campbell (D-West Lafayette) today released a statement on state funding of public schools during the COVID-19 pandemic after Indiana President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray sent a letter to school corporations last week threatening cuts to school funding.

Bray's letter warned school leaders that current budget laws would be upheld, and districts not offering in-person instruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic would have funding cut by 15 percent. Previously, Governor Eric Holcomb committed that K-12 schools would not face such cuts. Holcomb reaffirmed his position last Friday after the Bray letter.

“School leaders and teachers have been carrying the burden of creating safe, productive learning environments in the era of COVID-19,” Campbell said. “While they are busy trying to keep children and their respective communities safe, leaders like Senator Bray are trying to take their vital funding away.

“There seems to be a misconception that schools require less operation money when classes are not hosted in traditional brick-and-mortar buildings. Most public school professionals in the state would assure you this was not the case.

“The two unilateral challenges of ensuring all students can equitably participate in learning opportunities while preparing for an eventual physical reopening is even more costly than previous operations standards in some school districts. Schools now require money for essential initiatives like purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff and students; launching new or improved online learning platforms by hiring additional teachers or adding a virtual component to public schools; providing meals for low-income families and even ensuring students have access to devices or internet while e-learning.

“This letter was supposedly intended to provide clarity for budgeting in the fall, but it did the exact opposite. Last week's rollercoaster of events sent school districts on a wild goose chase for answers and left some school leaders planning for the worst. The Indiana State Teacher's Association said it best: 'The law Bray references wasn’t intended for traditional public schools offering remote instruction temporarily during a pandemic – and he knows it.'

“It would be a shame to see state leadership fail our schools.

“In the coming weeks, I will be remaining vigilant to ensure that schools are fully funded.”

Read the statement from Indiana House Democrats here:

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