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COVID-19 school turmoil, teacher pay face Indiana lawmakers

The turmoil that Indiana schools have faced from the coronavirus pandemic will be a top concern of state legislators during their upcoming session, the leader of the Indiana House said Monday.

Posted: Nov 16, 2020 6:12 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The turmoil that Indiana schools have faced from the coronavirus pandemic will be a top concern of state legislators during their upcoming session, the leader of the Indiana House said Monday.

Indiana lawmakers will take the first formal steps toward their 2021 session when they gather at the Statehouse on Tuesday for the Legislature’s organizational meetings. It will also be the first meeting of the House and Senate since the coronavirus pandemic was first sweeping across the country in March.

Republican House Speaker Todd Huston said he was worried about children possibly having more than a year of their education disrupted by the pandemic.

Schools across the state were closed for the final months of last school year out of coronavirus concerns. Indiana schools largely resumed in-person classes this fall, but many have shifted to more virtual classes in recent weeks amid sharp increases in COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations and confirmed new infections.

A focus of state officials needs to be on how to help students catch up, Huston said during an online program with other legislative leaders sponsored by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

“This wasn’t the schools’ fault, the teachers’ fault, the parents’ fault, the kids’ fault. This was just a unique time,” Huston said. “We’re going to have to figure out how we walk hand in hand to help support, particularly low-income students who, I think, have felt disproportionately the challenge of this pandemic.”

Tests have confirmed COVID-19 infections among more than 8,200 students and 1,600 teachers across Indiana since the start of the current school year, according to a weekly state health department report updated Monday. Indiana’s coronavirus hospitalizations are up about 250% since late September.

When the new legislative session starts in January, lawmakers will face drafting a new two-year state budget with uncertainties about state tax collections during the national recession and whether Congress will eventually approve additional financial assistance for states.

State officials in September approved a method to maintain full funding for school districts regardless of whether they were offering instruction virtually or in the classroom during this fall semester. Legislators will likely have to take up that issue because current state law caps per-pupil funding for students who take at least half their classes virtually at 85% of full in-person student funding.

During the Legislature’s Organization Day last year, thousands of teachers flooded the Statehouse to demand increased teacher pay. The Republican-dominated Legislature didn’t boost education funding during its 2020 session and a teacher pay commission appointed by GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb in 2019 hasn’t yet released its recommendations.

The state’s largest teachers union argued Monday that lawmakers need to take action regarding Indiana’s lagging teacher pay and increased stress on educators during the pandemic.

If not addressed, teacher resignations and retirements “will only worsen,” as will the ongoing teacher shortage, Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill said.

“We are advocating for lawmakers to keep their promises to fully and equitably fund our public schools, to pay our teachers as professionals and not to cut K-12 education funding in the coming session,” Gambill said. “We must ensure that students do not pay the price in this pandemic, nor can we afford to fall further behind on addressing teacher pay.”

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Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 664620

Reported Deaths: 12111
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook2842176339
DuPage41602748
Will35444530
Lake34539604
Kane29562445
Winnebago17480246
McHenry13125148
Madison13074217
St. Clair12087254
Champaign1015148
Sangamon923689
Peoria8239118
Rock Island8025120
Kankakee786396
McLean772949
Macon6015115
Tazewell598790
Kendall573941
LaSalle5608119
DeKalb462845
Adams439546
Boone356530
Whiteside346499
Vermilion345343
Williamson328477
Coles310057
Clinton298456
Ogle259826
Knox256156
Grundy248911
Jackson247234
Effingham246417
Henry234712
Stephenson228830
Marion223841
Randolph205223
Livingston203421
Morgan200434
Bureau194835
Macoupin191817
Monroe187544
Franklin186522
Christian174839
Lee169922
Jefferson168558
Woodford155326
Iroquois150624
McDonough149739
Logan147112
Fayette143428
Fulton127710
Douglas125416
Shelby121924
Jersey111823
Union111226
Montgomery105019
Saline104222
Crawford10159
Jo Daviess101016
Warren98818
Carroll98424
Perry96219
Pike95521
Bond91410
Hancock88710
Cass87919
Lawrence8739
Wayne82132
Moultrie81810
Greene76326
Clay74717
Clark72719
Piatt7055
Edgar69715
Mercer6749
Ford66321
Johnson6583
Richland65719
Mason63416
Washington5992
Jasper58211
De Witt57513
Cumberland56713
White5408
Massac4992
Wabash4738
Menard4131
Pulaski3792
Hamilton3633
Unassigned3530
Marshall3525
Brown2793
Henderson2580
Alexander2442
Schuyler2361
Putnam2280
Calhoun2170
Scott2120
Stark2103
Edwards2063
Gallatin1793
Hardin1270
Pope751
Out of IL100

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 300913

Reported Deaths: 5332
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion41330845
Lake26364448
Allen17299290
Elkhart16665212
St. Joseph16319220
Hamilton12459164
Vanderburgh9428112
Tippecanoe826727
Porter791279
Johnson6139164
Hendricks5807154
Vigo574474
Monroe525247
Clark495374
Delaware4789103
Madison4760119
LaPorte446894
Kosciusko446139
Howard325575
Warrick316072
Floyd306177
Bartholomew303262
Wayne295261
Cass293431
Marshall289944
Grant258747
Noble246846
Hancock243749
Henry237136
Boone235154
Dubois230430
Dearborn208829
Jackson206033
Morgan200643
Knox178017
Gibson177022
Clinton174920
Shelby174554
Lawrence171646
DeKalb171229
Adams165219
Miami155114
Wabash153018
Daviess152243
Fayette145233
Steuben141113
Jasper138311
Harrison137624
LaGrange136629
Montgomery131226
Whitley129910
Ripley123714
Decatur123542
Huntington122310
Posey118913
Putnam118326
Wells118327
Randolph117819
White117421
Clay115621
Jefferson114214
Greene100253
Scott99818
Jay95012
Starke89221
Sullivan86615
Fulton81117
Perry80921
Jennings80514
Spencer8047
Fountain7378
Washington7176
Carroll66813
Franklin65925
Orange65728
Vermillion5832
Owen5816
Parke5416
Newton54012
Tipton53726
Rush5216
Blackford51211
Pike50218
Pulaski36810
Martin3485
Brown3263
Benton3251
Crawford2781
Union2621
Switzerland2473
Warren2352
Ohio2257
Unassigned0265