The Journal Gazette
Monday, March 01, 2021 3:00 pm

Committee passes bill to ensure virtual school funding

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – A move to make sure schools get full funding even if they are providing instruction virtually passed the House Ways and Means Committee unanimously Monday.

Senate Bill 3 is one of two similar pieces of legislation moving through the Genera Assembly to make sure schools aren’t penalized because of COVID-19 precautions.

Under current state law, if a student receives more than 50% of instruction virtually, a district only receives 85% of the students’ base funding. The law was written for full-time virtual schools that don’t have the same overhead of brick-and-mortar schools. But no one anticipated so many schools having to move virtual during a pandemic.

Last year, the State Board of Education made a rule change that ensured full funding for the fall 2020 semester.

And Gov. Eric Holcomb and Republican legislative leaders promised to come in and quickly ensure full funding for the current semester.

Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Tim Brown offered an amendment Monday that modified Senate Bill 3. It eliminated all testing and reporting requirements the Senate had to assess learning loss. He said all students will take the ILEARN test this year and that can be used to see the loss.

The amendment also retroactively codified the action taken last year for the fall semester. It was adopted.

One legislator asked about future virtual funding and Brown said the House-passed budget would increase virtual funding to 100% starting in the fall 2021.

The full House will next vote on the bill.

GOP leaders were hoping to get the bill to the governor quickly so that no funding interruptions are experienced. But it’s now March and the process isn’t finalized.

A bill shielding businesses from COVID-19 related legal liability already has been signed into law this session.

Sign up for our Statehouse Scoop newsletter

Sent each Monday