By Bethany Blankley

An additional $123.3 million in federal coronavirus relief funds are being allocated to education efforts in Texas funded through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.

Gov. Greg Abbott said the funding "will help ensure that students of all ages will not only enter into a higher education program, but they will leave as quickly as possible with a high-value degree or credential."

So far, Texas has received more than $362 million in federal money for higher education and $67.5 million for public education since the coronavirus-related shutdowns began, the governor’s office said.

This round of funding includes an additional $20 million in funding for the Supplemental Special Education Services program, which provides money directly to families and connects students with severe cognitive disabilities to the support they need, as well as $10 million in grants to expand charter schools.

"For some of our most at-risk students, this significant new round of funding will prioritize getting families across Texas direct access to special education and other targeted supplemental services to support their children’s varied educational needs," Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said.

The money also includes $30.3 million for student success initiatives to improve student enrollment, retention, and credential completion, including technology applications to strengthen student advising; $12.5 million toward financial aid programs, including transfer grants and the Texas Leadership Scholarship Program; and $5 million to modernize the state’s educational and workforce data infrastructure and enhance cybersecurity.

In addition to funding K-12 and college education programs, it’s also being directed toward educational efforts for frontline workers and commercial drivers.

The funding would help the short-staffed nursing industry hire new workers after many lost their jobs due to private vaccine mandates in the state, or those who plan to leave over a federal mandate making its way through the court system.

Despite Abbott’s claim that vaccine mandates are prohibited in Texas and that getting the COVID-19 jabs is optional, this hasn’t been the case for health care workers who lost their jobs over COVID vaccine mandates. Many who acquired natural immunity from having gotten the coronavirus and were considered health care heroes are now unemployed after refusing to get the COVID jabs.

Numerous state lawmakers asked the governor to call a special session to address vaccine mandates, which he has yet to do.

The funding includes $25 million to support Texas nurses with loan repayment, financial aid for nursing students, and “to accelerate innovation in nursing education.” It also provides $17.5 million to expand workforce-aligned, short-term credentials for high-need areas including digital skills, data analytics, and programs for front-line health care workers.

Texas is also experiencing a commercial driver shortage due to a number of factors associated with the state shutdown last year, supply chain bottlenecks, an increased number of retirements, and a potential federal vaccine requirement expected to impact the industry. Roughly $3 million in federal funding Texas received in this round of funding for educational efforts will go towards Commercial Driver License training and repayment.

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