According to a July 17 news release from Gov. Greg Abbott, the funding will allow the TEA to purchase and distribute devices, hot spots and routers, among other technological needs as identified by local education agencies. The funds will be used to establish a reimbursement program with a matching fund component tied to locally controlled coronavirus relief funds, the release states.
"As school districts delay the start of in-person instruction for the 2020-21 school year due to COVID-19, it is essential that we work to provide Texas students with the devices that they need to connect and communicate online for classroom instruction," Abbott said in a statement. "As we continue to combat COVID-19 in Texas, we are committed to providing reliable and effective solutions that will help students academically succeed while protecting public health."
The funding allocation announcement comes the same day TEA Commissioner Mike Morath announced additional guidance allowing Texas school districts to offer up to eight weeks of online-only classes at the onset of the 2020-21 school year. The state previously allocated $400 million in coronavirus relief funding to reimburse school districts for COVID-19 expenses incurred during the 2019-20 school year. This initial funding also established a reimbursement program for devices and home internet costs incurred by local education agencies between May 21-Sept. 1.
"While getting our students back to school is our top priority, many local districts are also developing a variety of virtual learning plans to ensure that students do not lose valuable learning time as we continue to fight COVID-19," Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a statement. "This funding is an essential step to closing the digital gap for students by making access to technology available to every child who needs it."