(KTRE) - “Hold harmless” is set to continue for Texas school systems and their funding for rest of the 2020-21 academic year. Under normal circumstances, schools are funded based on the number of students’ enrolled and daily attendance on-campus, but that has changed because of the pandemic.
State officials say the “hold harmless” policy means funding will be available for school districts, despite attendance and enrollment declines because of the pandemic.
“Many of our school districts, they have hired up folks,” District 19 Texas State House Representative James White said. “They have staffed up. This will allow them more certainty as they are planning for the next school year.”
Lufkin ISD Superintendent Lynn Torres said the decision is a tremendous relief.
“We can begin making decisions for next year where before hold harmless, we might be making decision before the end of this year whether or not we were overstaffed, whether or not we had to cut budgets because we were going to suffer a financial loss,” Torres said.
Nacogdoches ISD’s Executive Director of Communications & Community Engagement Les Linebarger said the funding will help with various expenses and staffing for even this school year.
“Of course, on top of that like dozens of school districts in East Texas that took a beating during the winter storm, we’re dealing with additional expenses there,” he said. “On top of repairs and problems that had to be dealt with because of the damage from the extreme cold.”
To keep the current amount of state funding they receive, districts must maintain or increase levels of on-campus attendance rates submitted last fall.
“That means we watch our attendance,” Torres said. “We get kids into school. We hope that quarantine and the COVID-19 virus is a little more controlled, as it is in schools’ settings, and we’ll meet that attendance, and our funding will be okay.”
District officials say the priority now is to safely return all students to on-campus instruction.
“Knowing that we’re fully funded through this fiscal year gives us that freedom to not worry but tend to the problems at hand and that’s to get the kids back into school,” Linebarger said.
Because of the pandemic, schools have been “held harmless” in terms of funding, since the 2020 spring semester.
To read the full announcement on “Hold Harmless” for Texas school systems, click here.
For on-campus attendance participation rates of every Texas school system in Fall 2020, click here.