AG guidance regarding local orders
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued guidance today regarding the lawfulness of public health orders when it comes to reopening schools. His guidance states:

"Districts are political subdivisions of the State, like cities and counties, and governed by boards of trustees who are elected by voters within the district. District trustees “have the exclusive power and duty to govern and oversee the management of the public schools of the district,” subject only to laws expressly delegating authority to TEA or the State Board of Education."

Further: "Therefore, a local health authorities may not issue blanket orders closing all schools in their jurisdiction on a purely prophylactic basis."

Education Commissioner Mike Morath explained that if a school district is offering solely remote instruction that is not consistent with the guidelines given by the state, then such instruction would not qualify for funding. Local closure through blanket orders that are not lawful will not be recognized as a qualifier for state funding, and he explained that the AG's guidance makes it so that such orders are not lawful or binding for schools.

Therefore, TEA revised its guidance regarding the reopening of schools to reflect this guidance. A district may be fully virtual during a transition period (so long the district ensures every student is allowed access). Otherwise, unless a state closure order is in effect, the district must offer the opportunity for in-person instruction for those who choose that option.

Commissioner Morath stated that this new guidance from the AG really provides greater local control and district flexibility to meet student needs. Some school districts may hold a different perspective.

Other things to note
TEA revised the Public Health Guidance to match the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). They also put together a new resource: the Public Health Operational Guidebook .

The other big announcement today was in regards to Texas Home Learning 3.0 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. The fine print and details regarding state access to school district learning data and other factors was not discussed, but information for districts interested in learning more about this tool can access the Texas Home Learning 3.0 LMS Launch   presentation, or get more info from the state-selected vendor here .

If you are looking for more information about Operation Connectivity and the bulk purchase through the state of devices for students, TEA has updated their Operation Connectivity FAQ . And all of your questions about the requirements regarding waivers are answered in the newly revised 2020-21 COVID-19 Related Waivers document.

Also, if you are a district that receives SHARS funding , the CARES Act included funding that provides a one-time 2% increase in SHARS funding that can be used to defray COVID-related expenses. In order for eligible districts to receive that funding increase, the district must apply to begin that process by Monday, August 3 .

Finally, the long-awaited information regarding the Coronavirus Relief Fund (a portion of which was set-aside to provide reimbursements to school districts for expenses incurred by May 20, 2020) is something for which we are still waiting. The Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) is supposed to release guidance and materials on that this week, but they haven't released them yet. When they do, the information will be available at by selecting the tile indicating the CRF LEA Reimbursement Program.

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.

Tax Rate Survey open through Aug. 1
If your district has not already completed the TEA tax rate survey, don't forget that you 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. You can access it by going to the FSP module in TEAL and selecting "local property value survey."
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