For a third consecutive semester, Texas public school districts will not be penalized financially due to declining enrollment and attendance as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, due to an extension of the hold-harmless guarantee, state leaders announced March 4.

In a typical school year, the state allocates school funding based on student enrollment and daily on-campus attendance. However, as a result of COVID-19 and the advent of remote learning, Texas leaders implemented a hold-harmless guarantee at the onset of the pandemic nearly one year ago to ensure school districts would receive funding for spring 2020 based on attendance projections made prior to the public health crisis.

The guarantee was first extended for the fall 2020 semester and again March 4 for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.

"As more districts return to in-person instruction, we are ensuring that schools are not financially penalized for declines in attendance due to COVID-19," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a March 4 statement. "Providing a hold harmless for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year is a crucial part of our state's commitment to supporting our school systems and teachers and getting more students back in the classroom."

According to a March 4 news release, the extension of the hold-harmless guarantee allocates funding above the statutory guaranteed level of funding for students who are not enrolled, or for students who attend—even if remotely—less frequently. For the spring semester, the guarantee is being provided as long as on-campus attendance participation rates do not decline or remain at, at least 80 percent or higher.

The guarantee also ensures that Texas school systems can retain their teachers for the 2020-21 school year for whom they originally budgeted.

"Educators have again proven to be the backbone of their communities throughout this year-long public health crisis," said Shannon Holmes, executive director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, in a statement. "Just as school districts' main responsibility is to educate our children, it's the state's responsibility to provide necessary resources so educators can do their jobs. This is an important and welcome boost of support for our state's public schools."

The announcement comes one day after the Texas Education Agency released updated public health guidance allowing individual school boards to determine local mask policies. Also on March 3, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced that all Texas teachers and school staff are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.