Virtual Legislative Planning Workshop
Our virtual Legislative Planning Workshop is coming up soon--June 10-11, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. each day. Please click on the link below to register and let us know you plan to participate in this virtual event.

This workshop will include updates on what you need to know as we look to the upcoming 87th Session of the Texas Legislature and allow time for conversations about challenges, solutions, and priorities for your district and the organization as a whole.
Wed, Jun 10, 2020 2:00 PM CST
Legislative Planning Workshop
TEA released school funding info
This Texas Education Agency is regularly updating their Coronavirus (COVID-19) website , so keep checking there regularly for access to all the latest information.

Several new documents were posted today that relate to school finance. Education Commissioner Mike Morath shared details about the funding schools can expect on today's call, specifically about CARES Act funding.

The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), which allocated $1.3 billion to direct formula grants for school districts will be used to keep school district funding whole. The state authorized ADA waivers when in-person attendance was no longer possible for schools, and ESSER funds will be used to reduce the amount the state must pay for that hold harmless, as there is no federal requirement that ESSER funds be used to supplement rather than supplant state funding. ESSER funds will be used to prevent funding reductions, but no district should view their ESSER amount as new money on top of the formula funding that was already expected. To be eligible to receive this funding, districts will be required to complete a grant application.

Where districts may receive some new funding is through the Corona Virus Relief Fund. $700 million above the ESSER amount have been earmarked for schools to receive up to a 75% reimbursement for COVID-related expenses incurred on or before May 20, 2020. There is a floor and a ceiling for this funding. Every district will receive at least $50,000 assuming they incurred at least $67,000 in underlying reimbursable expenses. Then, for districts with more than 200 comp ed eligible students, the reimbursement would be capped at an amount equal to $250 per comp ed eligible student.

In terms of the Transportation Allotment, Commissioner Morath explained that allotment will only be funded through the last day students were transported to and from school. Districts should not report miles for any purpose other than transporting students. He also stated that TEA justifies this decision based on the fact that schools are not incurring expenses for gas or use of vehicles at this time, which he said cost more than paying bus drivers.

Finally, Commissioner Morath spoke about the future. With the additional $700 million in funding for schools above what was expected for schools, he said that makes lay-offs for district employees far less likely. However, he also warned that schools should expect to be conservative with their budgets for the next year, as there are no guarantees. He recommended that districts not commit to any new additional costs and pointed out that the economic damage is extensive and we don’t know what is coming down the road.

There was also more discussion about changes to the school calendar, and Commissioner Morth made it clear that no decisions have been made regarding how ADA calculations will work in the next school year, when attendance rates are expected to be lower statewide. Careful consideration of your district calendar may play a role in how much the state is willing to work with your district on waivers and special allowances next year should an outbreak occur. Make sure you are paying special attention to all the school calendar guidance from the agency.

State agencies told to reduce budgets
State leaders have instructed all state agencies and institutions of higher education to engage in prudent fiscal management efforts in order to achieve savings in the current biennium and to submit a plan to identify savings that will reduce general revenue appropriations by five percent in the current biennium. Current law requirements for the Foundation School Program and related to school safety are exempt from the five percent reduction at this time. Contributions to the Teacher Retirement System are also exempt. The Texas Education Agency is not exempt and will have to plan for a five percent reduction.

You can read the full text of the letter from the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker of the House by clicking here.

With the reduction we have seen to state revenues thus far, these instructions and requirements don't come as a complete surprise. Making reductions now will help mitigate some of the reductions that will be expected in the next biennium. At the same time, it is important to note that the biggest ticket items in the state budget (schools and health and human services) are pretty well exempt from this reduction, so the 5% reduction is the first step in this process, but will not result in large savings for the state. It is entirely likely that we will see deeper reductions required in the future and that schools may not always be exempt.
Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer
TEA has asked that districts help provide information to families regarding the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program which is designed to provide families eligible for free or reduced price lunch to access to a one-time benefit of up to $285 per eligible child. P-EBT benefits can be used wherever SNAP food benefits are accepted. 

Please click on the link below for more information that can be shared with families in your school community.

Thank you to our annual sponsors!
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