State leaders are currently holding on to nearly $18 billion in federal stimulus funds intended for public schools to use in addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Trustees unanimously approved a resolution April 22 requesting that Gov. Greg Abbott, the Texas Legislature and the Texas Education Agency ensure public education funds passed by the U.S. Congress through three stimulus packages “flow directly to local education agencies without additional restrictions.”
Trustee Lynn Boswell said AISD stands to get about $240 million of that funding if it goes to public districts as intended.
"We [at Austin ISD] have spent about $55 million on direct COVID-19 costs, and the needs will go up next year," she said. "The needs will not go away."
Through the resolution, the district asked that:
- the TEA uses the funds to supplement school districts;
- the TEA does not use the federal funds to replace existing state funding; and
- the TEA does not add restrictions to funding beyond those already mentioned in the federal relief bills.
"This is money that comes directly to benefit our students and then flows through our schools to benefit our communities and our state's recovery," Boswell said. "It is a piece of the recovery plan just as much as the Paycheck Protection Program, just as much as the checks that have come to families and individuals."
On April 14, the State Board of Education‘s Commissioner of Education Mike Morath said that $1.3 billion in funding from the first stimulus package was used to fund the hold harmless provision, which ensured school districts received state funding based on their projected enrollment despite attendance declines in the 2019-20 school year.
The second and third rounds of funding, amounting respectively to $5.5 billion and $12.4 billion, have not yet been distributed as the Legislature waits for guidance from the federal government, he said.
The AISD resolution was approved as part of the district's April 22 consent agenda.