Indiana schools fear fewer teachers and students due to pandemic concerns

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INDIANAPOLIS — The future of teacher pay and school enrollment is uncertain in Indiana right now.

Education budget cuts are not expected but Indiana may see fewer students and teachers in the classroom.

Adria Racette is the mother of a five-year-old girl who would be going to Kindergarten in the fall. However, Racette isn’t sure about whether she should homeschool her or not due to COVID-19.

“I think there is just so many things right now that we are just unsure about so, the more information that we have to make the educated decision I think is where we are,” said Racette.

That is one reason the Indiana State Teachers Association is encouraging school districts to send out detailed plans and surveys to parents. Especially information about an online schooling option. The governor announced both online and in-person students will be funded 100 percent.

“We have to be mindful that not every school district is going to be able to provide that opportunity,” said Keith Gambill, President of the ISTA.

He said rural areas may not be able to afford an online option and since funding is based on enrollment, they may be hit hard by a drop in the numbers.

“I think we have to explore every option and we certainly would welcome looking at even for a short time we allow funding to be at what was anticipated for the school this fall,” said Gambill.

He’s not just concerned about students deciding to leave public school districts, Gambill also fears teachers leaving the profession.

“As a state we were always running very tight on the number of jobs that open with the number of folks we had coming into the profession,” said Gambill. “And if we have more who leave at the end of this year than we have available that come in then we are going to struggle in being able to fill all of our teaching positions.”

He’s hopeful the governor’s Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission will provide an incentive for teachers.

“Their task from the governor was for them to be creative in finding ways in which the state can advance salaries for educators,” said Gambill.

He said the extra money the federal and state government is allocating right now won’t be an option for increasing teacher pay. They’ll be needing it for COVID-19 expenses.

“That might be our needs in PPE, it could be needs in devices for students for distance learning, upgrades in electronics both for staff and for students,” explained Gambill.

For parents right now, information is going to be key. Gambill hopes they get the reassurance needed to stay with their districts.

“I really want to see the content that this e-learning process is going to include and since it is new, being a guinea pig for something new isn’t always the best option,” said Racette.

Governor Eric Holcomb’s office says the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission is expected to release a final report in the second half of 2020.

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