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'We’re slowly going broke': Central Texas superintendents look to state leaders following end of pandemic aid

Classroom
Posted at 5:47 PM, May 17, 2024

CENTRAL TEXAS — Millions of dollars in federal money were provided to school districts across Texas to help out during the pandemic.

25News' Bobby Poitevint checked in with some of the schools in Central Texas.

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, also known as (ESSER) funds, were distributed to school districts across the country in several installments during the pandemic.

  • Temple ISD - $26M
  • Midway ISD - $7.2M
  • Waco ISD - $79M

Those funds are drying up across Central Texas leaving many superintendents calling on state leaders to step in and help out during rising inflation costs.
School districts spent their federal pandemic dollars on everything from necessary technology for remote learning to ways to help students combat learning loss and also big expenses that come around once every few years.

But now that those funds are gone, districts are faced with tightening their budgets including cutting positions or transitioning staff into other roles.

Some aides even received their certifications to become teachers to secure a job.

Temple ISD's Superintendent Dr. Bobby Ott said, “Some of the positions just completely went away but we communicate that to the staff ahead of time," said Temple ISD Superintendent Dr. Bobby Ott.

"They knew that when they signed the contract or the letter to take the position, so those were not costs that we had to continue to take care of in the future.”

Now, a questionable future awaits school districts as they struggle to accommodate for rising inflation costs.

Superintendents believe state leaders could have done more to help out including raising the allotted amount of money districts get from the State of Texas.

“We have had to be much more strategic about the way that we think about certain expenses — which is a good thing," said Midway ISD Superintendent, Dr. Chris Allen.

"Public schools should do that — but I will also tell you, we’re about to enter our fourth year in a row of a deficit budget and so we’re slowly going broke."

"What you’re seeing is the true impact of the failure of Texas to adequately fund public schools.”

In the wake of the funding fight, Gov. Greg Abbott has been traveling around the state campaigning against incumbent republican representatives who voted against his school voucher plan.

On Monday, Gov. Abbott called out Texas House Democrats for voting against an education package brought up during last year’s special sessions.

He blames school districts for their own deficits.

In a partial statement, his office said:

“To be clear, there are several reasons why some public schools are facing budget shortfalls. One is public schools received extraordinary funding from the federal government for COVID recovery, and that federal funding is no longer available. This means those schools that used this funding for ongoing expenses are facing a shortfall. Also, to be clear, you make reference to the basic allotment. That is simply misleading. While the basic allotment is $6,160, the average funding per student actually exceeds $12,000.”

“Waco ISD has been a good steward of the money that was given to us for pandemic relief," said Waco ISD Superintendent, Dr. Susan Kincannon.

"I would certainly urge our legislators going forward to understand that the impact of the loss of those funds along with inflation and the lack of additional funding for our students since 2019 is a challenge for our schools.”

Schools districts have until the end of September to allocate the last of their ESSER funds — 25 News has been told that districts can also file for extensions.


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