Indiana will not cut funding for K-12 schools, according to Gov. Eric Holcomb. At a press conference Wednesday, he said the state’s budget for K-12 schools approved by lawmakers in 2019 will remain on track, despite revenue shortfalls spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
State agencies are cutting their budgets by 15 percent, and colleges and universities will see funding cuts of 7 percent. But Holcomb says after asking state leaders to find cuts elsewhere, funding for K-12 schools will follow the state’s current budget.
“This was a collaborative effort for sure and it’s one that’s taken a few weeks to make sure that we could get to this place with confidence,” he says.
Leaders say they made a concerted effort to preserve resources for schools as they navigate the pandemic. Office of Budget and Management Director Cris Johnston echoed Holcomb’s statements, saying schools play a critical role for children and communities.
“We did not want to limit resources as school corporations must prepare and execute a safe and productive learning environment,” he says.
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School leaders have expressed many concerns about funding cuts – especially in light of a 2019 law that limits how much they receive for students who learn virtually more than 50 percent of the time.
State guidance encourages schools to enhance virtual learning options if parents decide to keep their kids home from school or in case a new surge of COVID-19 outbreaks cause some schools to close again in the fall. The Indiana Department of Education recommended state leaders allow schools access to the full amount of funding for students who would otherwise be in the classroom.
And Republican budget writers Sen. Ryan Mishler (R-Bremen) and Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) both said they support the idea of fully funding students learning virtually during the pandemic, and would back legislative action to do so.
Holcomb says he fully endorses the plan as well.
Following the announcement, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said in a statement she is pleased with the decision to maintain education funding and grant schools flexibility for funding students learning virtually.
“Schools will have one less stressor as they continue to educate our students during this unprecedented time,” McCormick said.
Indiana fiscal officials announced Wednesday they expect the state to fall between $3 billion to $4 billion short of its current two-year state budget.
This post has been updated.