On April 28, Gov. Greg Abbott announced a portion of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, funds would be released to Texas school districts.

Coincidentally, the Hays CISD board of trustees voted unanimously a day earlier during a meeting in favor of signing a resolution requesting the funds be released by the Texas Legislature.

"[The Legislature is] still debating as to when to release the funds, and what they're telling us is that there are federal strings attached, and until they know what those strings are, they are hesitant to release the funds," said Superintendent Eric Wright during the board's April 27 meeting.

Wright expressed doubt as to if the Legislature's reasoning made sense.

"We know, having dealt with so many federal grants, that you apply for the grants; you know what the parameters are for the grants; and we only can apply for things that are approved," he told the board. "We're not real sure why they're holding this up; [we are] not sure if they're trying to plug other holes in the state budget with this federal money."

HCISD documents said it was due an estimated $7,907,386 from the second round of ESSER, and $17,791,619 from the third round of distributions.

Similar issues had arisen in public school districts across Texas, with the Legislature withholding roughly $13.2 billion of the $30.75 billion provided by the federal government through the ESSER, according to HCISD.

Abbott's announcement only pertained to round three of ESSER, and the district will receive $387,731 less than it expected. A third of the funds—$5,801,296—will also not be released until the U.S. Department of Education approves it.

"We're glad that they released that money; it's money that we definitely need to help cover expenses related to COVID-19," said Tim Savoy, HCISD's chief communication officer. "Our COVID-19-related expenses will continue into the summer and into next year because we're going to be spending a lot of time and resources on trying to close those learning gaps that have occurred this past year because of the pandemic."

A district spokesperson said HCISD had still not received the second round of ESSER funding, and a Texas Education Agency news release said it would likely require the duration of the current legislative session to determine the implications of releasing the second round before it would happen.