Statewide coronavirus update: Holcomb proposes school funding ‘solution’

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday a “solution” to the school funding crisis that erupted last week when a top lawmaker said schools that didn’t open for in-person instruction wouldn’t get full state funding. 

Holcomb is asking the Indiana State Board of Education to delay the fall count of student enrollment — the day on which schools count all their students in attendance. 

Indiana funds schools on a per-student basis, so this number determines their funding for the year. On that day, schools must also designate students who receive at least 50% of their instruction virtually. Under current law, schools only receive 85% of state funding for those virtual students. 

There have been concerns about what that would do to schools operate entirely online or have high numbers of families choosing an online instruction option this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In June, Holcomb and several top lawmakers said they would support fully funding public schools, regardless of how students receive instruction this year. Last week, Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray sent a letter to schools that seemed to suggest otherwise. 

Bray said schools that do not offer an in-person instruction option are unlikely to be fully funded and should plan to receive only 85% of their foundation funding. The rule does not impact funding for other purposes, like serving low-income or special needs students. 

The letter caused widespread confusion and angst among school leaders who said they were thrown into uncertainty by it. 

Last week, Holcomb said he still supported fully funding all public schools that would traditionally serve students in person.

Wednesday, he said he’ll ask the state board to move the count day back to December, and that he, Bray and House Speaker Todd Huston remain committed “to fund schools to the full extent during this uncertain and unprecedented time.”

— Arika Herron

Indiana reports 671 cases, 15 deaths

Indiana reported 671 new coronavirus cases Wednesday and 15 additional deaths from the disease, all of which occurred this month. Wednesday’s new case count was the lowest reported midweek since cases began to climb last month.

The new numbers bring the state’s totals to 2,878 deaths and 76,522 cases since the pandemic began.

More than 1,097,000 tests have been performed in Indiana since March on 866,994 unique individuals, the state reported Wednesday.

With eight newly reported deaths for Monday, that day became the deadliest this month with a total of 15 deaths from coronavirus. That makes Monday the second deadliest day since mid-June.

About 34% of the state’s intensive care unit beds remain available and nearly 82% of ventilators.

While the state’s largest counties in terms of population had the highest number of new cases – Marion reported 108, Lake 57, Allen 40 and Hamilton 48 – other, less populated areas also have seen an upswing in cases in recent days.

Sullivan and Clinton counties, for instance, have seen the highest number of new cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days, according to a New York Times database. Sullivan has had 60 new cases and Clinton 84, but when adjusted for population, those numbers rise to 290 and 259, respectively.

Out of the state’s counties with a population greater than 100,000, Vigo County has had the most number of cases in the past seven days, according to the Times’ database, 190. Clark County has seen 178 new cases in that time period, Elkhart 296 and Vanderburgh 259.

— Shari Rudavsky