Tax Rate Survey open through Aug. 1
If your district has not already completed the TEA tax rate survey, don't forget that you only have until August 1 to do so. The information your district submits will be used to determine the Tier 1 portion of your local tax rate for the 2020-21 school year, and failure to submit your data could result in an invalid tax rate. Districts are to submit certified property values, but if those are not available you may submit a certified estimate. You can access it by going to the FSP module in TEAL and selecting "local property value survey."
Clarity on cans & cannots of re-opening
Following the guidance from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton earlier this week and the further guidance from TEA on the topic of what have been deemed unlawful school closure orders from local public health authorities, Commissioner Mike Morath issued a statement late yesterday attempting to provide some clarity.

Today, TEA updated the Attendance & Enrollment FAQ document again to provide even more clarity. The updates clearly state that students can achieve daily progress for asynchronous plans at any time of the day (so procrastinating night owls have until midnight to complete their assignment), and that districts maintain the authority to assign (or re-assign) to different campuses to keep school population levels manageable for maintaining a safe environment (or for any other reason a district may want to wade into the fun and wildly popular topic of changing campus attendance zones).

In light of the flurry of recent guidance and over 30 pages of frequently asked questions on this topic, here is a quick list of reminders (not meant to be exhaustive, because if you want that, you can read the 31 pages):

Without risk of jeopardizing funding, schools have the authority to :
  • Make changes to the instructional calendar
  • Offer 100% remote instruction for up to eight weeks during a transitional period at the beginning of the year (with certain restrictions, and so long as all students are able to access the remote instruction that is offered)
  • Choose to offer in-person opportunities to some or certain students during the transitional period, while others are not yet offered the same opportunity
  • Move students and offerings within school campuses/facilities
  • Determine if synchronous or asynchronous (or a combination of) remote instruction opportunities are available (or if only in-person instruction will be offered)
  • Close a campus for up to five days if a confirmed positive case of COVID-19 is found (to adequately clean, communicate with those who may have been affected)
  • Choose the timing when students may transition from remote to in-person instruction

Schools do not have the authority to:
  • Offer 100% remote instruction beyond the transitional period unless a lawful closure order is in effect or if a campus is closed (for up to five days) due to a confirmed positive case
  • Deny daily in-person instruction to any student with parents who choose that option (with the exception of high school students participating in a hybrid model, or a parent who previously chose the remote option and must wait until the end of the grading period to transition)

Other things to note
Texas Home Learning 3.0
Further announcements came regarding Texas Home Learning 3.0 today, and the state contract for a Learning Management System (PowerSchool's Schoolology) that districts may access free of charge for the next two years should they so choose. 

Commissioner Morath reported that 200 districts have already chosen to use the state LMS system, paid for through CARES Act funding. He also stated that districts are free to choose whatever LMS system they want, but pointed out the robust analytical student tracking that is included in the state LMS system. School districts that choose to use the state-provided LMS system will be allowing for the state to access and maintain analytical academic growth tracking data on schools and students in their district that the state has never had access to before.  

Operation Connectivity
If you are a district that is planning to participate in the Operation Connectivity program to get a discounted bulk purchase rate on devices and hotspots for students, TEA has once again updated the Statewide Bulk Purchasing Event FAQ. They also developed a flyer intended for school districts to use as a tool to seek assistance from local city or county partners in helping the district cover the cost of their share of the purchase.

Coronavirus Relief Fund
At the time this message was written, the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) website that is supposed to provide additional information about the Coronavirus Relief Fund reimbursements for school districts is still not updated with any information on that topic. Once available, the information will be found at by selecting the tile indicating the CRF LEA Reimbursement Program. Updates were expected and promised for this week. We will keep you posted on this important topic.

Recapture, ESSER, and your budget
We sent information back in June regarding the fact that many of you may notice that your district is paying quite a bit more in recapture than originally planned. For some districts that is because property values increased or because ADA was less than expected due to the reduction in ADA that TEA is making in order to account for the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) dollars your district received.

If you are a July 1 fiscal year district, we hope you already thought through these implications. For September 1 fiscal year districts, please be aware that you may need to consider a budget amendment before the end of your fiscal year to account for this change in revenue vs. expenditures. While the net effect is still largely the same due to the off-setting revenue, your district’s expenditures are likely much more than originally accounted for in your budget due to the increased recapture payment that will be required. Your auditor is likely to want to see this reflected in a budget amendment.
ADA Hold Harmless
The Texas Education Agency recently released a spreadsheet to help districts know their funding floor for the first twelve weeks of the school year when schools are guaranteed funding tied to previous years' ADA. Depending on your district's enrollment and attendance during the first 12 weeks of the school year, you may qualify for a higher amount, but your ADA will not be lower than the number reflected in this spreadsheet. The hold harmless is only for the first 12 weeks of the school year.

Access the Excel spreadsheet: SY 20-21 ADA Hold Harmless Final  
Tools to explain state of the economy
If you are looking for tools to use to explain the current state of the economy and the impact that will likely have on school funding, you may want to check out the following. These talking points and sample presentation were designed for use (in whole or in part) with staff, community, and boards of trustees. None of this information makes anything more certain, but hopefully it helps us to be better prepared and informed.

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