Indiana budget deal boosts school funding, construction

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A new Indiana state budget awash in federal coronavirus relief money will give a sizeable funding boost to public schools while also paying for numerous economic grant programs and construction projects.

The state budget deal announced Tuesday by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and GOP legislative leaders will boost school funding by about 4.5% each of the next two years. That is more than double what budget writers proposed earlier this month before new projections showed state tax collections are expected to bounce back stronger than expected from the pandemic recession.

Legislative leaders said the budget plan will cover the $600 million a year in additional money the governor’s teacher compensation commission said was needed to sufficiently raise Indiana’s lagging teacher pay.

The deal includes a contentious expansion of the state’s private school voucher program by raising income eligibility for a family of four from the current roughly $96,000 a year to about $145,000 for the coming school year.

Other provisions in the budget partially direct the spending of $3 billion in federal relief funding. That includes $500 million toward a regional economic development grants program, $550 for state building projects and $250 million for broadband internet expansion grants.