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Local school districts receive CARES funding
The Texas Education Agency is distributing portions of federal funds to local school districts to help make up for COVID-19 losses through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.
The emergency relief fund is through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, the same legislation that provided $1,200 stimulus payments to most households. A minimum of 90 percent of the grant to TEA will be allocated to local education agencies that received Title I, Part A funding in the 2019-20 academic year.
Title I, Part A provides financial assistance to local educational agencies and schools with high numbers or percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
The funds are not extra money gained, but federal relief to avoid any reductions to the district’s budgets caused by campus closures, student absences and other expenses. Local school districts are using the money to help offset unexpected expenses this school year as well as prepare for next year.
Following a statewide meeting Tuesday morning, there is some confusion on how the district can use its $861,063 allocation, Superintendent Phil Edwards said.
“We’re not supposed to get final guidance on what this money is, and how we are supposed to use it, probably not for another week or so,” Edwards said. “That being said, any amount of money given to us will have to be put toward money spent during the COVID-19 crisis.”
Any grant money from TEA will have to be used toward cleaning, transportation, food and classroom changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m thinking that we are going to hire custodians and cleaning supplies to keep the place as clean as possible, for example,” Edwards said. “Also, the extra money will be spent in transportation, food service and curriculum instructionaries, as we think that if they cut class sizes to say where kids need to be 6 feet apart, then we will need to hire extra teachers to cover that difference.”
Until guidance is released next week from TEA, Edwards said, the district is unsure of how to move forward.
“Regardless of how much the TEA or the state is giving us extra, we’re going to have to find some more money to cover these things,” Edwards said. “We have been working on a budget over the last few weeks and we will present that budget to the community in a way that will not raise taxes for our community and we are in the process of tightening our belts in order to make that happen.”
The district also has savings expenditures to cover that difference, Edwards said.
“Regardless, this budget increase will not be passed to the taxpayers,” Edwards said.