INDIANAPOLIS – On Thursday, President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray sent a letter to school corporations in the state regarding school funding. Citing a state law, Bray warned that schools that failed to reopen this fall for in-person classes would only receive 85 percent of normal funding. Ranking Minority leader of the Senate Education Committee, State Senator Eddie Melton (D-Gary) released the following statement in response to Senator Bray’s letter:

“Despite multiple assurances from Governor Holcomb and Republican leadership that school funding would not see cuts, the letter that Sen. Bray sent to school leaders is threatening a 15% decrease in funding for any schools choosing to operate remotely. I’m shocked and appalled that our children and teachers would be used as sacrificial lambs just to make a political point.

“This is a real virus, with positive cases rising daily. Now, due to the mishandling of this pandemic from the president, and our leaders as a whole, school funding is being held hostage and used as a political tool. It is because of the mismanagement of this public health crisis – including lack of sufficient PPE, adequate contact-tracing, testing and rising case numbers – that schools have no choice but to put the health of students, staff and surrounding communities first. That means providing remote learning so they can work on slowing the spread of this virus, while still educating our students.

“There have already been several cases of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 in reopened schools. It’s shameful that funding cuts are even a discussion with all that is going. As if our school leaders aren’t concerned with enough, as they bend over backwards, redesigning lesson plans and teaching styles to ensure their students are able to get a quality education. The fact that public schools have to worry about having aid taken from them when we’re in the middle of this deadly public health crisis, speaks volumes about the way our state values public schools.

“Instead of providing more resources to those in need during this critical time, Republican leadership is choosing political partisanship and gambling with the safety and lives of children, educators and their communities in the process. We know that there is already deep inequity in public school funding. To put another obstacle in place to strip away vital funds, that are already stretched thin, is simply unacceptable. The governor needs to step up and protect our public schools, teachers and students.

“Preserving 100% of the funding for traditional brick and mortar schools is essential for schools to transition back as smoothly as possible as the pandemic evolves. In his letter, Sen. Bray pointed out that the school funding policy could only be changed if legislation was passed by the General Assembly. Given the importance of making sure that our already underfunded public schools are not crippled further as we deal with the hurdles of this pandemic, I hope Sen. Bray will join the Senate Democratic Caucus in urging the governor to call a special session to pass the necessary legislation to protect our public schools, students and teachers during this time. Anything less is a disregard for the desperate situation our public schools are already in, as well as for the lives of the communities that will be affected by this.”