Indiana’s US Rep. Banks: If students not back in classrooms by Sept. 8, schools to lose funding

Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., walks down the House steps of the U.S. Capitol during the House vote on the $483.4 billion economic relief package on April 23, 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (WISH) — Go back to in-classroom instruction at K-12 schools and colleges by Sept. 8 or lose federal funding: That’s the proposal from two U.S. representatives from Indiana and Wisconsin.

Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana and Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin call the measure the Reopen Our Schools Act. With a majority of House members in the Democratic Party, it’s unlikely the House bill will ever go anywhere.

In addition to the threat of losing funding, the bill says schools must provide a plan to reopen safely per their “normal operations pre-coronavirus,” said a news release on Banks’ website. The bill, introduced Thursday, also would allow the secretary of Education to create a waiver process.

“We need to change the subject from ‘our schools might not reopen in the fall’ to ‘our schools will reopen in the fall and here’s what we need to do it,’” Banks said in the news release. “America is the land of opportunity where education is guaranteed to all children. We’re not living up that guarantee at the moment.”

Banks and Tiffany also argue school lunch programs are losing millions trying to find and feed hungry students outside of the classroom.

Indiana health officials offered guidance last week for reopening K-12 schools. The officials said Indiana K-12 schools should consider scheduling groups of students to come to class on alternate days or half days. They also suggested keeping the same students and staff members together as much as possible and increasing space between student desks. The department says schools should move classes outdoors whenever possible.

The news release from Reps. Banks, which cites a Wall Street Journal article, says, “Research suggests that children are at a relatively very low risk of becoming infected by coronavirus. If they do become infected, the risk of serious illness is extremely rare. As of May 20, only 48 children were admitted to the ICU for COVID. They are also less likely to spread the virus to adults when they get infected.”

Based on June 11 numbers from the Indiana State Department of Health dashboard, nearly 2,100 people 19 and younger have tested positive for the coronavirus and at least two people 19 and younger have died from COVID-19. More than 5,700 people from age 20-29 have tested positive, and at least 4 in that age group have died. The state dashboard does not provided numbers of hospitalized and intensive care unit patients by age.

Some of the first COVID-19 cases recorded in Indiana in early March were among K-12 students.

Banks, who is from Columbia City, serves 3rd Congressional District, which includes the northeast Indiana cities of Angolta, Auburn, Bluffton, Columbia City, Fort Wayne, Huntington, Kendallville, North Webster, Portland and Warsaw.