“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,” Abbott said in a statement. “This will ensure that Texas students will be ready to fill the jobs created in and attracted to this state.”
This funding was part of the third round of federal stimulus funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which was passed in March. It will be used in learning recovery efforts across the state over the next three years.
Officials said one-third of this funding is available immediately under grants administered by the Texas Education Agency, and applications are open as of April 29. The distribution of the remaining money is dependent on approval by the U.S. Department of Education.
According to data from the TEA, Cy-Fair ISD would receive an initial allocation of $126 million, and another $63 million is expected to be released to the district later this spring. CFISD officials said the district has incurred nearly $227 million in unexpected pandemic-related expenses that could be covered through the stimulus money, from personal protective equipment to additional tutoring and accelerated learning programs designed to remedy pandemic-related learning loss.
Another $5.5 billion was set aside for Texas schools in the second round of funding, which has yet to be released. However, officials said these additional funds will be coming soon once TEA and USDE leaders work through the “significant strings attached.”
“As the Texas Education Agency is working through these issues with the Department of Education, the state will continue to support school districts as they have over the past year,” the press release reads. “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.”
Texas public schools were allotted $1.3 billion in the first round of ESSER funding, which Commissioner of Education Mike Morath said was used to fund hold harmless in the 2019-20 school year. The hold harmless provision ensured school districts received state funding based on their projected enrollment despite attendance declines.
Public education advocates have continuously called on state leaders this spring to release ESSER 2 and ESSER 3 funding directly to Texas school districts as other states have, but Morath said funds were on hold due to certain conditions tied to the funding.
CFISD board member Julie Hinaman called on Abbott at the April 8 board meeting to ensure Texas public schools receive their federal funding, noting the majority of other states had already distributed stimulus funds to their schools at that time.
“These are our taxpayer dollars that are supposed to help schools pay for the extensive costs of dealing with the pandemic and to address the learning needs of our kids,” Hinaman said.
Learn more about ESSER III funding here.