AUSTIN, Texas — On Wednesday, state leaders announced the release of $11.2 billion in new federal funding to help public schools address student learning losses and costs that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act, Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan said these one-time funds are intended to support a statewide learning recovery effort over the next three years. Federal rules require that two-thirds of the funds are available immediately under grants administered by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), with the remaining third to be distributed contingent upon approval by the U.S. Department of Education.
The decision to release the new funds was reached with help from Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson, House Appropriations Chair Greg Bonnen, Senate Education Chair Larry Taylor and House Public Education Chair Harold Dutton.
The new funding adds to the roughly $2.2 billion in federal funding already given to Texas to help public schools respond to the pandemic. It also comes on the heels of the largest single-year increase in funding for Texas public education in Texas history. The Texas Legislature passed House Bill 3 in 2019, and during the 2019-20 school year, state funding for public education increased by more than $5 billion from the year before.
"The State of Texas is ensuring that our public schools have the necessary resources to help Texas students recover from learning loss related to COVID-19," said Gov. Abbott. "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. To ensure this pandemic does not become a generational education crisis, we expect, and students deserve, for this funding to be used to remediate the progress lost due to the pandemic. This will ensure that Texas students will be ready to fill the jobs created in and attracted to this state.”
"Throughout the challenges of the pandemic over the last year, I have worked to ensure the state maintains the funding commitment we made to our schools in HB3 in 2019, including teacher pay raises and the school finance reforms. These additional federal funds now will allow educators to help our students recover from the negative impact of long months out of the classroom. My goal is to ensure that Texas schools – like the rest of our state – come back stronger than ever," added Lt. Gov. Patrick.
"These resources will help close the gap for our students who have fallen behind as a result of COVID-19," said Phelan. "Now more than ever, our state must work in unison to ensure our students remain competitive and have the tools they need to succeed. Texas is committed to our children and our public education system, and these funds and our efforts this session will underscore that commitment."
More funds are coming soon. Texas was allotted more than $5 billion in funds for education as part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation (CRRSA) Act.
However, the allocation of those funds is not so simple.
As the TEA is working through these issues with the Department of Education, Texas will continue to support school districts as they have over the past year. That includes holding the districts harmless for decreases in enrollment, funding learning devices through Operation Connectivity, and reimbursing school districts for their COVID-19 related costs during the spring 2020 semester.
Lawmakers will continue to work alongside the TEA to make sure that all outstanding questions on CRRSA are addressed by the end of the 87th Legislative Session.
Democratic Congress members on Sunday had urged the state to release federal educational funding that had been available since March. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) released the following statement Wednesday evening:
“Belated but very substantial progress in responding to our congressional calls and those of public school advocates across Texas. Gov. Abbott has finally yielded to the requirement that our most recent federal aid to education must be used to supplement assistance for our pandemic-impacted schools, not simply to replace state education funding. But state Republicans are hardly justified in patting themselves on the back for ending a blockade that should never have occurred. After four months, Gov. Abbott is still obstructing distribution of the remaining $5.5 billion, which Congress approved in December. Even today, he has failed to offer any justification for his delay and attempt to divert these funds from our schools. Our children’s future is not a place to cut corners and misuse federal aid to education for non-educational purposes.”
PEOPLE ARE ALSO READING: