Millions of dollars for COVID-19 testing in Texas schools remains unused

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Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 5:54 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 16, 2021 at 11:48 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - $800 million from the American Rescue Plan was made available to Texas schools this fall − primarily to assist districts with COVID-19 testing on campuses. So far, the vast majority of that money has gone unspent.

In East Texas, some districts are just beginning the process of spending the money they’ve been allocated.

“That’s a lot of money for a lot of tests,” Nacogdoches ISD Chief Marketing and Communications officer Les Linebarger said.

Nearly $637,000 was allocated to the district to spend on COVID-19 testing. Since becoming available in October, the Nacogdoches ISD has spent $1,875 of it, according to the most recent Texas Education Agency data.

It’s a similar story for districts across the state. Millions of dollars are ready to be spent on tests, but so far, the vast majority of Texas’ school districts have spent a fraction or none of what has been allocated to them. For Nacogdoches ISD, Linebarger says a good supply of tests still remain from previous orders.

“For the past several months, we’ve still been using up those tests because they’re still good through the end of this month, but we have begun to make orders through the new testing providing plan the state has in place,” Linebarger said.

At Jacksonville ISD, Police Chief and Emergency Management Coordinator Bill Avera says they’re also working to use all the tests they have on hand.

“We were allowed to continue with the test kits we already had under the old program until one of two things happened: they either expired or they were exhausted,” Avera said.

So far, Avera says neither has happened, but they have started using money from the latest grant. $49,200 has been used out of $507,276, according to TEA data.

“That may be all we spend, and it was acknowledged upfront that this grant might not all be spent,” Avera said.

TEA data shows larger districts like Tyler and Longview ISDs have not spent any money allocated to them. In the case of Tyler ISD, a district spokesperson says they did not apply for the grant because they don’t offer covid testing. But for the districts that do, they say they’re looking to use the money wisely.

“We want to be prudent with that money and we want to order them in a timely fashion, but order what we think we would use over the course of that time,” Linebarger said.

Avera says no money comes directly to the district. They submit a document when the tests are purchased to the state who then pays the invoice. The money expires on July 31, 2022, meaning participating districts have until then to spend all the money allocated to them.

“Better to have more than you need than not as much as you need,” Avera said.

KLTV reached out to the TEA on what happens to any unused money. They have not responded to our requests for comment.

To see how much money your school district was allocated and what they’ve spent, click here.

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