June 18, 2020

Educators Relieved K-12 Funding Safe From Cuts, Democrats Ask For More Protections

Original story from   IPBS-RJC

Article origination IPBS-RJC
Teachers rallied at the Statehouse multiple times in 2019 to demand more school funding and compensation for teachers.  - Chelsea Wardrop/WTIU

Teachers rallied at the Statehouse multiple times in 2019 to demand more school funding and compensation for teachers.

Chelsea Wardrop/WTIU

Teachers across the state are breathing a collective sigh of relief today, and many are praising the decision not to cut funding for K-12 schools this year even as Indiana faces major financial shortfalls.

Many school leaders feared the state's education budget approved by lawmakers in 2019 would be cut back in light of revenue shortfalls spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. State agencies have been asked to cut back 15 percent of their budgets, and colleges and universities are facing a 7 percent decrease. 

Rep. Tonya Pfaff (D-Terre Haute) teaches high school math and sits on the General Assembly's House Education Committee. She said in an interview following the governor's announcement, it makes sense to keep cuts out of K-12 schools.

"I think what the governor announced today is just Hoosier common sense. I mean it's a good plan," she says.

Teachers unions also expressed their support following the decision. In a statement, Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill said he hopes the state continues prioritizing education funding.

“While concerns about the coming school year remain, these fiscal decisions give educators confidence that we can provide students a quality education in a safe environment this fall. We encourage the governor and legislators to continue making educators and kids a priority in the next budget year," Gambill said in a statement.

Rep. Melanie Wright (D-Yorktown) – also an educator – says the decision will be particularly helpful for school leaders as they address staffing questions. 

"Principals are not sure if they have to let some teachers go or not fill retirement spots and this was just so incredibly helpful and such a relief," she says. 

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But she and other House Democrats say the state can take more steps to protect schools as they reopen.

Last week, Democratic members of the House Education Committee sent recommendations for the governor to consider. Those include measures to freeze current district-level funding for schools this fall, and limit how soon schools can start the new year. 

Wright does not sit on the education committee, but says she agrees with the idea of freezing fall enrollment to maintain current funding levels for schools.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.

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