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Congress Allocated $19 Billion To Texas Public Education, But Schools Have Yet To See An Extra Dime

For greater than a year, the federal authorities has been pumping billions of {dollars} into college districts throughout the nation to assist them meet the calls for of the pandemic. Most states have used that pot of stimulus funds as Congress supposed: shopping for personal protecting tools for college students and lecturers, laptops for youths studying from residence, improved air flow programs for varsity buildings to stop virus transmission and masking different prices.

But in Texas, native faculties have but to see an additional dime from the greater than $19 billion in federal stimulus money given to the state. After Congress handed the primary stimulus invoice final year, officers used the state’s $1.3 billion schooling share to fill different holes within the state funds, leaving public faculties with few extra resources to pay for the prices of the pandemic.

Now, educators and advocacy teams fear that the state might do the identical factor with the remaining $17.9 billion in funding for Texas public faculties from the opposite two stimulus packages. Because of federal necessities, Texas has to speculate over $1 billion of the state’s personal funds in greater schooling to obtain the third spherical of stimulus funding for Okay-12 public faculties. Experts mentioned the state has utilized for a waiver to keep away from sending that added money to greater schooling, however the course of has brought on main delays in native districts receiving funds they desperately want.

Congress allocated $19 billion in federal stimulus money to Texas public education, but schools have yet to see an extra dime” was first printed by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media group that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public coverage, politics, authorities and statewide points.

“Principals’ budgets are being eaten up with personal protective equipment, with tutoring, with trying to get kids back engaged, while the Legislature is sitting on a whole bunch of money,” mentioned Michelle Smith, the vice chairman of coverage and advocacy for Raise Your Hand Texas. “And that will have an impact on our school districts not just this school year, but for several school years to come.”

A spokesperson for Gov. Greg Abbott instructed The Texas Tribune that state leaders are ready for extra steering from the U.S. Department of Education earlier than opening the spigot and letting billions movement down to highschool districts.

Because of the state’s waiver request, Texas lawmakers seemingly won’t determine parcel out the money till they both hear again from Washington D.C., or till the Legislature finalizes its plans for the state funds. But the waiver solely applies to the newest stimulus bundle, so the state might unlock $5.5 billion for schooling from the second reduction invoice at any time.

Libby Cohen, the director of advocacy and outreach for Raise Your Hand Texas, mentioned dozens of states are already sending these federal {dollars} to public faculties, and the latest stimulus bundle additionally contains steering on use that money. Texas and New York are the one two states which have offered no extra funding to public faculties in the course of the pandemic, in accordance with Laura Yeager, a founding father of Just Fund It TX.

“We find it baffling that Texas is pumping the brakes on this particular issue to the extent that it is,” Cohen mentioned. “The dollars are there … and districts need to know if and when they’re coming because they’re writing their budgets right now, and they’re making decisions about summer programming right now.”

Many Texas lecturers and directors say they want money now, and wish the Legislature to begin funneling the federal funds to highschool districts as quickly as attainable.

But state lawmakers holding probably the most energy over budgeting and schooling funding need the Legislature, as an alternative of native college districts, to determine what to do with these federal stimulus {dollars}.

“The federal funds will ultimately get to school districts but the overriding question is how should these funds be spent and who should make that decision?” mentioned Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston chair of the House Public Education Committee. “I think the primary obligation for educating Texas children vests in the Legislature according to the Texas Constitution.”

The Legislature’s hesitancy in unleashing the funding complicates the trail ahead for educators across the state. Dr. Mark Henry, superintendent of the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Houston, mentioned he is already within the strategy of constructing two totally different plans for subsequent year’s funds: one together with the federal reduction funding meant for the varsity district and a contingency plan for shifting ahead with out it.

If Cypress-Fairbanks ISD ultimately does obtain its anticipated share of the stimulus schooling funding, Henry mentioned he plans to maneuver these {dollars} towards psychological well being help companies that college students will want whereas transitioning again to in-person studying this coming fall. Many districts throughout Texas have struggled to have interaction college students this year, and lots of college students have merely stopped attending on-line lessons.

“We’re looking at high schoolers that are disengaged, and they’re dropping out of school,” Smith mentioned. “And instead of giving school districts additional resources to go find those kids, those kids are lost right now.”

A spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency mentioned districts can nonetheless entry funding from the primary federal stimulus invoice by submitting a grant application to the division, however consultants added that such laws usually discourage smaller college districts with fewer resources from making an attempt to obtain the funds.

“Even though school buildings closed due to the pandemic two-thirds of the way through the school year, Texas’s school districts are fully funded for the entire 2019-20 school year,” the spokesperson mentioned. “Despite significant reductions in economic activity caused by COVID-19-related shutdowns, it is important to note that school district funding has been fully preserved here in Texas, which is not the case in many other states across the country.”

Tuesday morning, representatives from Raise Your Hand Texas left a six-foot tall stool within the state Capitol constructing with the message “Fund TxEd Recovery.” Last week, the House Appropriations Committee adopted a minor change to the state funds demanding that no stimulus schooling funds “shall be used to reduce state funding for local education agencies.”

Adding that language to the funds supplied a key win for Texas schooling advocates, however the state senate declined to incorporate nearly the entire practically $18 billion in federal funds for Texas public faculties within the new model of the funds that it handed Tuesday afternoon. In a information launch, the Texas State Teachers Association described educators as “angry” at senate members over this choice.

“There’s a lot of people that are making decisions about education who have never spent a day teaching a class or managing a campus or running a school district,” Henry mentioned. “So as long as you have people making decisions that have never been in those roles, they’re not going to make great decisions.”

Disclosure: Raise Your Hand Texas and the Texas State Teachers Association have been monetary supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan information group that’s funded partially by donations from members, foundations and company sponsors. Financial supporters play no position within the Tribune’s journalism. Find an entire list of them here.

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