TEA extends funding hold harmless period, ties to in-person instruction

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) released a press statement today regarding how Texas public schools will be funded during the pandemic amid unstable enrollment.

TEA’s new funding mechanism will offer full funding to districts for a full 18 weeks, an extension of six weeks over the original 12 weeks of “hold harmless” offered by the agency, but with a significant strings attached. The hold harmless creates a cushion for districts that would otherwise lose funding due to unforeseen drops in enrollment because of the pandemic. Some districts have reported significant declines, especially in their prekindergarten and kindergarten grades, which are not mandatory in Texas.

The strings? In order for districts to receive the full funding for the 18 weeks held harmless, they must offer, or continue to offer, an in-person instructional option to all parents who request it. Additionally, the TEA release says that districts, “will be required to identify students who are missing from enrollment and determine their location.” Placing an additional administrative burden on already time and cash strapped districts of not only identifying students who were previously, but are not currently, enrolled in the district, but also of tracking down the whereabouts of students who are not currently enrolled.

As for future funding, the press release states, “TEA will address whether further funding adjustments for the second semester are needed based upon information and data gathered between now and January 2021.” As the Texas Legislature convenes in January, lawmakers will surely weigh in on school funding.

ATPE released a statement in response to the development from TEA, expressing gratitude for the change but regret that the agency has decided to tie funding to in-person instruction. In the statement, ATPE Senior Lobbyist Monty Exter commented on the agency’s conflict with their own recent guidance on extending remote instruction.

“Since schools have opened around the country, the percentage of new COVID-19 cases in the school-aged population has increased, according to a recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics,” said Exter. “Just last week, TEA itself recognized that there are currently existing COVID-19 hotspots in Texas that warrant a delay in returning to in-person classes.”

Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates.

 

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