The Indiana State Board of Education unanimously approved a proposal to maintain full funding levels for schools operating online this fall. School leaders and educators say it offers much-needed stability.
The change means schools will receive 100 percent of funding for students learning remotely because of COVID-19. If a school and its students were virtual full time before COVID, they will only receive 85 percent of funding, per state law.
The action temporarily works around rules meant to dissuade schools from offering virtual instruction full time. But board member Pete Miller said it's best for most kids to learn in person, and he hopes efforts continue to bring kids and staff back to schools safely.
"My hope is schools will continue to seek to provide in-person instruction whenever possible," he said.
Education groups and school leaders are praising the board's decision.
Terry Spradlin from the Indiana School Boards Association called it "decisive action" that provides schools with concrete guidance. Now, he says, it's important for public education advocates to focus on the state's budget-writing session starting in January, especially on important topics like teacher compensation.
"We want to be at the table and working with our policymakers to try and figure out a solution to keep forward momentum going," he said.
He said a key next question is how lawmakers will approach state education funding during the legislative session, amidst revenue shortfalls caused by the pandemic.
Other education groups and leaders, including the Indiana State Teachers Association and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick also expressed support for the board's decision, sharing statements on Twitter.
In her statement, McCormick said she is "pleased" the board pursued action laid out in a June memo from the state's education department.
The state will calculate enrollment and subsequent school funding mid-September.