On July 10, the Legislative Study Group Caucus put out a report on the costs of education during a pandemic. They have asked the public to contact their congressional representative and senator and ask them to support the $90 billion educational funding provision in the HEROES Act. Some $58 billion of that money would cover K-12 education needs, and Texas would get a $6 billion infusion of funds earmarked for our schools and higher education institutions—in addition to funding to stabilize the state budget for the next two years.
If awarded HEROES Act funding, we could pay for:
• Laptops and broadband access for students who do not have internet access.
• School safety measures, including more instructional space and HVAC upgrades to filter out contagions and provide fresh air.
• Costs of additional employees to frequently sanitize campuses, food prep, and cafeteria areas.
• Teacher retention and training in both classroom and virtual instruction.
• Funding to maintain and build upon HB3 funding school funding levels and prevent cuts.
The other costs associated with the pandemic are not monetary. The state guidelines released by TEA have raised serious concerns with teachers, parents, and administrators. Requiring in-person instruction five days a week will make social distancing difficult, if not impossible. While virtual instruction is the safest way to go, not everyone has access. Black teens and lower-income households are especially likely to be affected by the “digital homework” gap. According to a Pews Research Center 2018 survey, one in five Black teens doesn’t have reliable access to the internet or a computer.