Texas public schools to receive additional $11.2 billion in new funding

By Bethany Blankley

Texas public schools will receive an additional $11.2 billion in federal funding, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday. The money comes from federal stimulus funds and must be dedicated to address student learning loss and costs incurred as a result of the state being shut down for much of last year due to the coronavirus.

The one-time funds are intended to support a comprehensive learning recovery effort in Texas over the next three years, the governor’s office said. Due to federal requirements, two-thirds of the funds are available immediately under grants administered by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The final one-third is to be distributed contingent upon approval by the U.S. Department of Education.

This funding is in addition to the roughly $2.2 billion Texas already received from the federal government last year to help public schools respond to COVID-19 – the largest single-year increase in funding for Texas public education in the state’s history.

Prior to that, the state legislature passed House Bill 3 in 2019, which Abbott signed into law, that increased state funding for public education by more than $5 billion.

“Two years ago, the Legislature passed, and I signed historic school finance legislation to ensure education funding was more equitable and that we fund schools in part on their ability to ensure students are ready for higher education or a career,” Abbott said. In an effort to ensure that the consequences of the state being shut down for one year resulting from his executive order does not become a generational education crisis, Abbott said he hopes the funding will be “used to remediate the progress lost.”

Last year, school districts throughout the state reported record levels of student absences and failing grades, as well as an increase in parents pulling their children out of the public school system altogether. Despite the absences and failing grades, Texas said it was holding harmless school districts whose funds are normally tied to performance and attendance. This year, Texas is holding harmless school districts that continue to report decreases in enrollment. The state is also continuing to partially fund and provide learning devices through Operation Connectivity, and is continuing to reimburse school districts for their COVID-19 related costs during the spring 2020 semester.

“Given the complicated nature of the federal maintenance of effort requirements and the enormity of the education challenge ahead,” the governor’s office says the decision to release the federal funds now was reached with the input of key state legislative leaders. State Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson, state House Appropriations Chair Greg Bonnen, state Senate Education Chair Larry Taylor, and state House Public Education Chair Harold Dutton weighed in on the matter.

On top of this funding, even more is expected for Texas public schools through the latest stimulus bill passed by Congress. The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation (CRRSA) Act allotted $5 billion in funds to Texas public education, “with significant strings attached,” the governor’s office said. The TEA is working through these issues with the U.S. Department of Education.

The governor and state legislative leaders said they are working with TEA “to ensure that all outstanding questions on CRRSA funds are resolved by the end of the 87th Legislative Session so schools have clarity on the final round of supplemental funds they will receive.”

The additional federal funding, Abbott says, “will ensure that Texas students will be ready to fill the jobs created in and attracted to this state.”

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