Area school districts could save millions of dollars if a bill authored by State Sen. Brian Buchanan (R-Lebanon) becomes law.
Senate Bill 2 passed the Indiana Senate with a 41-6 vote on Feb. 2. If approved by the House of Representatives and signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb, the legislation would provide 100 percent of the state’s per-student funding for public schools whose students have transitioned to virtual education for part or all of the 2020-21 school year as long as those students weren’t already virtual learners prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While at times challenging, virtual learning has proven itself to be an invaluable resource for schools across the state to get through these challenging times,” Buchanan stated. “SB 2 ensures that no school is left underfunded due to a large number of students unexpectedly participating in virtual learning because of the pandemic.”
Senate Bill 2 could save school districts millions, as current law states that schools can only receive 85 percent of funding per student if those students receive 50 percent or more of their education virtually.
Noblesville Schools could save more than $5 million if the bill is passed.
“We’re thankful that the Indiana legislature has taken up the issue of fully funding students who are learning virtually this year due to the COVID pandemic. The majority of our 10,000-plus students are learning either exclusively online or through an alternating in-person/virtual schedule,” a statement from Noblesville Schools read. “If these students were not fully funded, Noblesville Schools would stand to lose approximately $5.5 million dollars. That would be a devastating blow in a year where COVID management has caused expenses to soar and our staff is working harder than ever to serve students. It is likely that we will continue to have a need for some COVID-related virtual learning into next school year, and are hopeful that lawmakers will take that into consideration as they work to best support schools during this difficult time.”
Noblesville Schools isn’t the only district that could benefit in Hamilton County. Westfield Washington Schools, Carmel Clay Schools and Hamilton Southeastern Schools could also save money. WWS CFO Brian Tomamichel said the WWS district fully supports Senate Bill 2.
“We’ve structured our learning models to support the health and safety of our students, families and staff, so we stand to see a $1.8 million funding deficit if the bill is not passed,” Tomamichel said. “A majority of that amount comes from the fact that our middle and high school hybrid plan has grades 7-12 students receiving in-person instruction 40 percent of the time, which falls below of the 51 percent mark, making the entire WHS and WMS population qualify as virtual students even though most attend classes in-person.”
HSE Schools could lose more than $2 million if the bill is not passed, and Carmel Clay Schools could lose $2.9 million.
The bill was assigned to the Ways and Means Committee. After it goes through the committee process, it will be heard by the House of Representatives at a future undetermined date. For more, visit iga.in.gov.