The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, March 02, 2021 1:00 am

General Assembly

House panel OKs school funding

Bill: Full payout for virtual learning

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 General Assembly to make sure schools aren't penalized because of following COVID-19 precautions.

Under current state law, if a student receives more than 50% of instruction virtually, a district receives only 85% of the student's 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 to virtual learning 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 coronavirus-related legal liability already has been signed into law this session.

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