Lawmakers put pressure on TEA Commissioner Mike Morath to use CARES Act money to supplement funding to school districts for COVID-19 expenses. Earlier this week TEA received letters from sixty-five Texas State Representatives and members of the Congressional Delegation. The letters came independent of each other but carried the same message: CARES Act money needs to go directly to school districts.
TEA made the decision in June to use CARES Act funds to offset their losses instead of distributing money directly to school districts. This was not the intent of the CARES Act passed by Congress. Texas Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia stated in a press release: “When I voted for the CARES Act, I voted on behalf of the public schools and the students in my district and across Texas, hoping they would directly receive important federal dollars needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Lawmakers expressed disappointment with TEA’s decision to use CARES Act money to backfill their budget and urged the agency to reconsider: “it will force district officials to go back to the drawing board to find a way to keep their districts afloat financially and keep their students and teachers engaged educationally.”
Lawmakers made three clear requests in their letter to TEA: one, school districts should be reimbursed 100 percent of their COVID-19 expenses; two, extend the timeframe for reimbursement through August 1st; three, that reimbursements for additional COVID-19 expenses be prioritized from discretionary TEA funding. School districts have already had to absorb costs because of the COVID-19 crisis, as well as potentially millions in additional costs for students and educators to safely return and/or access online instruction.
The cost to safely re-open schools in the time of COVID-19 are significant and still unknown. TEA holding back CARES Act money hinders our local schools as they plan a reopening to safely educate students amid a pandemic.