AUSTIN – October 1, 2020 – Given the need to ensure school systems have flexibility and financial security to provide instruction while they adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Texas Education Agency announced today it will extend the current minimum funding guarantee established for the pandemic an additional six weeks, which for most, but not all districts, means a funding guarantee is in place for the entire first half of the school year. This “hold harmless” guarantee will only be available to school districts that offer in-person instruction for any Texas family that desires it. Districts must also demonstrate a good faith effort to allow for on-campus attendance. Remote instruction will also continue to be fully funded for those who wish to stay home for classes online.
This extension ensures that schools will receive their anticipated funding through the first eighteen weeks of the first semester regardless of changes to enrollment or attendance rates due to COVID-19. TEA will address whether further funding adjustments for the second semester are needed based upon information and data gathered between now and January 2021.
It is important to note that school systems are already fully funded this year based on students who are enrolled and who attend remotely or on campus.
This minimum funding guarantee will address the slight decline in enrollment in Texas public schools this year due to the pandemic. Schools that are open for on-campus instruction have generally seen higher levels of enrollment than those relying solely on virtual education. Schools have taken tremendous steps to ensure that the on-campus environment remains safe, so enrollment has also increased as it has become clearer that COVID-19 does not seem to be spreading in schools at significant rates. School districts that utilize this extension will be required to identify students who are missing from enrollment and determine their location. Parents are also urged to ensure that their children are enrolled and attending school.
Taxpayers in Texas are not expected to fund school systems for students that are not being educated, so, ultimately, school budgets will continue to be based on enrollment. This limited “hold harmless” extension provides time for the enrollment picture to become more stable, so that schools can wait to make operational and budget adjustments based upon clearer information.
School districts that have been approved to offer a hybrid-only high school instructional setting can continue to do so. Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath retains the authority to consider exceptions for extenuating circumstances.
Upon making this announcement, Commissioner Morath said: “Given the uncertain nature of this public health crisis, we are giving as much support and flexibility as possible to school districts to ensure that we are balancing the need for student learning with our desire to help all our state’s students, teachers, staff, and families remain healthy and safe.”