Public school advocate estimates $223 million owed to South Plains districts in relief funding

Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 7:02 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Raise Your Hand Texas, an organization that closely looks at the way the State of Texas is funding schools, says local districts haven’t received all they’re entitled to when it comes to COVID-19 relief. The nonprofit is joining some local districts in calling for that funding to be whole and direct in the future.

“Instead of the State working to keep that money at the state level to fill in revenue gaps, we are hoping that that money can flow to the local level so that we can support our students here locally, in the way that we know will meet their needs,” Lubbock ISD Superintendent Dr. Kathy Rollo said.

Raise Your Hand Texas relief funding estimates
Raise Your Hand Texas relief funding estimates(Source: RYHT)
School relief funding estimates from Raise Your Hand Texas
School relief funding estimates from Raise Your Hand Texas(Source: RYHT)

According to Rollo and Raise Your Hand Texas, after the CARES Act passed last spring, the State of Texas passed on the federal funding to schools but withheld its own education funding, meaning it was supplanted.

“They sent federal funds to our schools, as they were forced to do from the federal government, and then turned around and took dollar-for-dollar out of what the state share of funding is,” RYHT Regional Advocacy Director Skylar Gallop said. “Our schools didn’t actually see that really critical money that was allocated to them from the federal budget in the first similar stimulus bill. The good news is we have a choice now of what we’re going to do with that money, even more than the CARES Act, with the second and third stimulus bills.”

Gallop said RYHT is working with school districts to implore state legislators to ensure the money allotted to schools is fully dispersed. The organization estimates from all relief bills Lubbock ISD is owed $144 million and Frenship ISD is owed $14 million.

“We know that Texas legislators are working diligently to try to figure out the best fit,” Frenship ISD Dr. Michelle McCord said. “Where we were coming from is we did get the great benefit of House Bill 3 funding but there were a lot of added expenses that were unexpected, as you can imagine, with the pandemic.”

House Bill 3 was the latest school finance reform legislation passed in the State of Texas. McCord tells KCBD meeting those commitments might be why Texas withheld its part, but she hopes as the economy recovers and schools return to in-person learning that relief is provided.

“We would use those to underwrite the costs of some of the unexpected expenses we had this past school year,” Dr. McCord said. “This isn’t going away anytime soon, in terms of the learning loss. What our families and students have been through, we probably need additional staff in terms of counselors and professional development around social emotional learning.”

The Lubbock ISD and Frenship ISD administrators both told KCBD the relief funding would help with meeting gaps in learning that students are suffering by hiring additional staff or meeting technological needs.

“We’re the largest district in Texas that opened our doors for kids face-to-face and virtually when we said we were going to August 17,” Dr. Rollo said. “We have invested a great deal of resources into making that happen on top of what we would normally spend on just our normal operations. Any additional assistance would be greatly appreciated because it’s going to take us anywhere from two to three years to really get everyone caught up to where we need to be.”

According to RYHT, 35 districts across the South Plains could receive a combined $223 million to address their needs.

“We’d like to see our legislators take action and make sure that they’re appropriately funded and able to continue to meet the challenges of what has been several crisis crises really this this past year,” Gallop said.

For information on RYHT advocacy, click here.

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