TEA Guidance for 2020-21 school year
Today's call with Commissioner of Education Mike Morath shed some light on what we can expect for the "Strong Start" of the upcoming 2020-21 school year. He was joined on the call by Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor and House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty.

Specifically, we received the Overview of Remote Instruction Guidance for SY 20-21 and SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ . Both these documents provide important information regarding funding for the next school year. More information regarding public health guidelines and information regarding the instructional plans that must be submitted to TEA regarding remote instruction will be forthcoming on Thursday's and next week's calls.

TEA will provide an ADA hold harmless for any district that experiences ADA that is more than 1% less what it was in the prior year. This hold harmless funding will be available for the first two six-weeks periods of the 20-21 school year. That means schools will be guaranteed funding of no less than 99% of the previous year's ADA for the first 12 weeks of school. Then, beginning the week of the November 2020 election and thereafter, things are a little less certain.

Commissioner Morath referenced the words "flexibility and grace" when describing the options available for the delivery of instruction next year in a manner eligible for ADA funding:
  1. Unless some type of closure is ordered, schools can offer in-person instruction and take attendance in the traditional format.
  2. Schools can offer synchronous remote instruction and provide live real-time instruction to students in 3rd grade and above remotely for at least 180 instructional minutes for those in grades 3-5 or at least 240 instructional minutes for those in grade 6 and above in order to count students for a full-day of attendance. Students in grades PK-2 are not eligible for synchronous remote instruction. Attendance would be taken daily by the teacher at a designated time.
  3. Schools can offer asynchronous remote instruction so that students receive instruction through pre-recorded videos, written instruction, online lessons/games, and other self-paced lessons. Such instruction is available for students in all grade levels, and in order for a full attendance credit to be granted, schools must be able to record that the student made progress (through a check-in with the teacher, work submitted, etc.) on a daily basis.
  4. Finally, the Texas Virtual School Network remains an option for school districts that wish to offer courses through that platform.

In response to questions on today's call, Commissioner Morath stated that parents will have the ability to choose among the district's offerings which instructional format works best for their child. He also said that some students may engage in a hybrid approach. Truancy laws will no longer be waived, and students will be expected to be engaged in learning each day.

We strongly encourage you to become well acquainted with the two documents posted to the Agency's website today as your district makes decisions and plans for the 2020-21 school year. Districts will want to make decisions and communicate those decisions and options to parents as quickly as possible.

And as always, please let us know if you have any questions.

Something to consider...
Not to rain on anyone's parade, but please consider the fact that while state leaders are doing their best to get information out to schools and provide as much certainty during uncertain times as possible, nothing is set in stone.

Some of you may well remember a time in March when you let your community know that you would continue to provide in-person instruction while taking health and safety precautions, but then those plans changed because the circumstances did. Either your local community had orders put in place, or your local district made a different decision, or Governor Abbott made the decision for you, but your plans changed.

The same could still be said about all the certainty the state is trying to offer schools at this point in time. The hold harmless for the first 12 weeks of schools is something schools can likely count on and take to the bank. But it still remains possible that once the Legislature convenes in January and can assess just how much of a budget hole they are facing, funding in the spring could look a little different than anyone might like. Either that, or we could end up facing proration. This possibility is something all districts should keep in mind as you are making budget and staffing decisions for the upcoming school year.
Calculating the cost of unfunded mandates
We've spent some time talking about unfunded mandates and the fact that during a time of possible budget cuts, mandate relief can make limited dollars go further to actually serve students. Plano ISD has worked hard to put a price tag to what each unfunded mandate costs in their district to allow for a real conversation about each of them. Please click here to see Plano ISD's list.

We would like to see all Coalition districts create a share a list like Plano ISD's so that hard facts are available regarding what each of these state mandates costs. You can use one of the two options below to create a similar list for your district. Once complete, please share that list with christy@txsc.org as well as your local legislators.

This isn't to say that we can or should do away with all unfunded mandates, but information is required to have a conversation about which mandates are essential to the operation of schools or safety and service of students and which ones simply aren't. Legislators can't know what each of these mandates cost unless schools provide them with that information.
Members only
Don't forget that we have a section of our website specifically for Coalition members where you can access information and resources that are not available on the general website. If you are having trouble finding something from one of our previous emails or a link to a document that you have misplaced, then check out our members section of the website to find it there.

You will need your e-mail address and a password to access the members-only section. If you don't know your password, that's no problem at all. Simply click on the link for "Forgot password" and you can receive an e-mailed link to set up a new one and gain access.

If you have any suggestions, requests, or ideas for something you would like to see available on this site, please let us know!
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