Our present circumstances have been challenging, to be sure. But they have also allowed public schools to shine and prove that we can rise to the challenge.

A school isn't a building you visit; it's people that make a school. And those hardworking dedicated people can make learning happen anywhere and everywhere. You and your entire staff are to be commended for their unwavering support for students and our communities at-large. You have kept kids safe, kept them fed, kept them learning, and kept them inspired.

We have to take a moment to appreciate and celebrate the good we have seen among school students, parents, staff, and leaders. Be proud of the work your team has done and will continue to do for students. We certainly are!

"I'm from the Government and here to help..."

There are also some good things happening as federal and state leaders recognize the challenges some of their laws and rules have posed to schools that are trying to serve students. In addition to waiving things like standardized testing, some of the more recent developments include:

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has provided a helpful School Finance FAQ document that will assist you in answering many of the questions you may have about school days, closures, waivers and more. They also have specific guidance on Missed School Day Waivers, as well as Cost Reimbursement FAQs. They have provided districts with some flexibility regarding educator appraisals, so for more info on that see the TEA guidance on Educator and Staff Issues. And because there is SO MUCH to keep track of in the midst of this crisis, they even provided a COVID-19 Superintendent Response Checklist to help you make sure your district has every base covered. They have also provided an FAQ Document for School Boards.

The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) announced receipt of a letter from the USDA late Wednesday granting some important waivers that make it so that students do NOT have to be present when the meal is served in order to qualify for reimbursement (as long as steps are determined and followed to maintain accountability and program integrity) , and meals can still qualify for reimbursement even if they don't meet every requirement in the meal pattern if the provider was unable to source some requirements due to limitations on supply sources during this time. Check the TDA's Coronavirus Updates webpage, as we expect more guidance on these waivers to be forthcoming. Also announced yesterday is specific help for schools in rural counties through the Meals-to-You Program.
The bad news is that there are still more things that are unknown than there are known, such as how long this will last. All Texas schools are closed through April 3, and some are already closed for much longer than that due to local orders. Some question whether any Texas school will resume in-school instruction this school year or if all will be shuttered until the fall. That raises even more questions as time goes on about graduations and other end-of-year traditions.

The Texas Association of School Boards recently updated their guidance on Emergency Delegation of Authority to Superintendent should that be helpful to you. It includes a sample resolution for some specific circumstances that may be useful at this time.

We're not going to dwell on the bad any more though, as we need you to keep reading and begin to think about the ugly circumstances that likely wait us down the road.
While we are all focused on what must and should be the priorities right now (personal health and safety, flattening the curve, and the continuation of essential educational and nutritional services), we must also start to think about the long-term effects this crisis will likely have on the economy, the need for social services, and school funding for the next school year and the years that will follow. Right now, it is still too soon to know the full effects of what has already been labeled a recession by Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar. But in less than a year, the Texas Legislature will convene and be handed a Biennial Revenue Estimate from which to build the state budget that we expect to be pretty bleak. It's going to be ugly.

Some of you will begin to feel the effects of this economic shift more rapidly than other districts. You're going to see your property values take a nose dive and the value of your I&S pennies (and for some, golden pennies) will go right along with it. For others, this may impact the value of your formula transition grant to be something less than you were expecting.

There are still others of you who won't feel the full effect in the next school year. You may notice that there will no longer be shortages of people applying to fill job postings (and you won't have as many postings or turnover either), and every district is likely to see an increase in the number of students and families requiring additional services. The impact of this economic shift is something that will affect all schools. To what degree is unknown at this time.

To begin thinking through some of these issues, we have prepared a document (accessible via the link below) to summarize what we know at this time to begin framing some of the conversations you may need to have in your districts. This is a document that we will update as more information becomes known, and we are certainly available to talk through these issues and answer any questions you may have to the best of our ability.

This is just a reminder that TEA is regularly updating their Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Guidance, so keep checking there.  

Also, the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) has an excellent resource page: Resources & Information Related to COVID-19
Click on the image above to tweet from your account.
Thank you to our annual sponsors!
601 Camp Craft Road
Austin, Texas 78746