AUSTIN, Texas — Some Texas school districts have to figure out a plan after not getting the additional money they were counting on to recover from the COVID-19 shutdown. Instead, the Texas Education Agency will put CARES Act funds toward money lost in the 2019-2020 school year.
All Texas school districts were given entitlement amounts from the CARES Act Relief Fund based on their student population. According to the document, Lago Vista ISD's entitlement amount is $127,308. The school districts leaders said they planned to use the money to improve online learning, hire more interventionists who work with students who need extra support, and to help kids who fell behind this past spring.
"We have since learned that that is not the case," said Dr. Suzy Lofton-Bullis, Lago Vista ISD deputy superintendent. "There aren't federal dollars being infused into schools. There's federal dollars being infused into the state budget to offset costs, so the schools themselves won't be receiving anything supplemental."
Austin ISD's CARES Act entitlement is more than $16 million and it's also money it expected to use for its students. Chief of business and operations Nicole Conley said during AISD's board meeting on Monday it's still too early to tell the impacts this recession will have on Texas public schools, but the pandemic has rocked their world from a financial perspective.
"It is not new money. The state is going to use it to backfield our entitlements under law and the Foundation School Program, which means it [will not] translate into new dollars," said Conley, "which is a little disappointing, but could be expected. The last time we had stimulus dollars, the state used it to backfield their revenue shortfalls, which are quite substantial."
"It's an allowable use of those funds by the state, but it definitely isn't what we were led to believe in the beginning. So many of us, most of us, made big plans when we were seeing those allotments for how we would spend them to meet student needs," said Dr. Lofton-Bullis. "To have additional resources, to meet that challenge, would be a huge benefit."
A Texas Education Agency spokesman said:
"Texas school districts are fully funded for the entire 2019-20 school year, even though schools buildings closed 2/3rds of the way through the school year. Despite significant reductions in economic activity caused by COVID-19-related shutdowns, it’s important to note that school district funding has been fully preserved here in Texas.
"In addition, school districts will receive reimbursement for 75%of additional coronavirus expenses incurred. Finally, a small amount of supplemental funding will flow to districts – above and beyond all of this other funding – to ensure they can meet federal equitable service requirements during this time."
Additionally, the TEA said there are two large funding streams from the CARES Act that will impact K-12 education in the state and there are also several smaller funding streams. The ESSER fund flows to school districts and a portion of the ESSER fund would supplement expected Foundation School Program funding in district budgets. The Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) is a reimbursement program, and the TEA said those supplemental funds to school districts are intended to cover extra COVID-19 expenses.
Dr. Lofton-Bullis said it's back to the drawing board for them, but they'll figure it out for their kids.
"Our teachers have worked so hard to make this work, you know, and the thought that anything would make their lives harder and not easier at this point is pretty difficult," said Dr. Lofton-Bullis. "Schools will still operate and schools will still do the very best that they can to provide excellent education to kids."
You can read more about the CARES Act Funding and COVID Expense Reimbursement here.
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