School funding becomes big part of reopening conversation

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INDIANAPOLIS – School reopening guidelines are known, but the price tag for those extra precautions is not. 

“We’re concerned about that,” said Dennis Costerison, Executive Director of the Indiana Association of School Business Officials.

Administrators are trying to figure out how they will pay for less students on school buses, extra sanitation, personal protective gear and potentially more on-site nurses. 

“Our goal is to keep all of our staff because we will need the teachers and all of the custodians and all the folks working in the school as we move forward with these new guidelines,” said Costerison. “Because there are a lot more requirements that school districts are trying to deal with.”

CBS4 asked Governor Eric Holcomb’s office about this.

“School corporations will be receiving a total of $192 million from the CARES Act. Additionally, a significant number of corporations have submitted requests with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security for FEMA reimbursements for supplies such as cleaning supplies and PPE,” said Press Secretary Rachel Hoffmeyer.

“We are all wanting to see if there will be another stimulus package and whether that package will assist,” added Costerison.

The Indiana State Teachers Association is calling on Indiana’s U.S. Senators to pass the HEROES Act in Congress. They’re also calling on state lawmakers to not make any cuts to K-12 education saying, “We must ensure that students do not pay the price in this crisis.”

“I think our main concern now is what happens to enrollment,” said Costerison.

He said in some districts surveys show schools may be seeing up to a 30% enrollment drop in the fall. The number of enrolled children is how the state determines funding. 

“I think what we are looking at is a hold harmless of having us use the same enrollment that we did for our February count and do a hold harmless rather than revamping everything,” said Costerison.

We asked the governor’s office whether this was being considered. Hoffmeyer said that is under discussion.

“Indiana has access to federal funding from the stimulus act to help schools prepare to reopen safely for students and staff. We have been awarded $214M from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (to be administered by the DOE), and there’s an additional $61M coming from the Governor’s Emergency Education Fund. In order to prevent schools from experiencing a huge drop in state funding, we will definitely have to freeze ADMs at pre-pandemic levels,” said Democratic State Sen. Eddie Melton.

Costerison said he hopes lawmakers are paying attention to the resources available and the need. 

“We’ve got the guidelines, we are going to do it, there are going to be a lot of questions, still some unknowns, but I believe we are going to do everything we can to make sure that school can be as I don’t know about normal but we can get back to classrooms at the beginning of the school year,” said Costerison.

CBS4 reached out to republican state legislative leadership on this issue but have yet to hear back.

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