Indianapolis Public Schools spent $27 million on COVID-19 related expenses since March, when school buildings began to close.
District leaders updated the Board of School Commissioners on finances, during a regular meeting Thursday at the central office. Limited seating was available to the public. The meetings are also available as a live stream.
It remains to be seen how much IPS will be reimbursed for the expenditures through the Federal Emergency Management Assistance or Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, as guidance shifts and legal issues remain unsettled.
So far, the district received around $600,000 in philanthropic support.
The IPS Board approved a request to issue general obligation bonds to help cover the cost of devices for all students durring virtual learning. The $5.2 million bonds will cover a third of the $16.5 million spent on iPads and Chromebooks for 32,000 IPS students, and an additional 7,000 mobile wifi hotspots.
“Over the course of the next two years we anticipate ... those dollars will be made up but potentially there is still a gap,” Weston Young, chief financial officer said.
In addition to uncertainty around federal funds earmarked for the pandemic, district leaders are bracing for a possible slash in state funds.
Lawmakers have yet to settle the concern that school districts offering virtual-only courses, like IPS, could lose out on 15 percent of the per-pupil tuition support, as dictated by state law. Such a reduction in funding -- across all of IPS schools, including its charter school partners -- could equal $28 million.
Since March, the district continued to pay all staff and managed to avoid layoffs, said Superintendent Aleesia Johnson. But, if the district was funded at the virtual school amount, that would change.
“Given the impact of a reduction, we’d have no choice but to make significant, and quite frankly, severe cuts that would be really catastrophic, I believe -- for the students and families we serve,” Johnson said.
Gov. Eric Holcomb has said he intends for schools to be fully funded if they decide to offer remote learning. The General Assembly will meet in November for their organization day -- a time when legislation could be passed to fix the school funding issue -- before starting the budget making session next year.
Another unknown funding issue is how many funds private schools will receive through the CARES Act. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is facing legal challenges against a rule from her department that would send more aid to private schools. A second federal judge ruled against DeVos Wednesday.
IPS is set to receive $16.5 million for the district and private schools in the boundary. Young says, depending on the outcome of policy guidance, IPS could share $2.5 million to $5.5 million with area private and parochial schools.
IPS finished its fiscal year in the black with $402.89 million in expenditures for the 2019-20 school year. Young said the district would face a $9 million deficit if voters had not approved a $220 million operating referendum in 2018.
Here is where IPS spent $27,147,087 COVID-19 related expenses since March:
- Academics, $188,867
- Childcare First Responders, $23,030
- E-Learning (Devices), $16,518,963
- E-Learning (Take-Home), $343,607
- Facilities, $3,111,500
- Foodservice, $430,497
- Human Resources, $1,452,905
- Information Technology, $275,740
- Nursing, $702,000
- Personal Protective Equipment, $1,154,050
- Professional Learning, $222,931
- Transportation, $2,722,995