MARLIN, TX — As students prepare for the winter break, school districts are already planning the next academic school year. But school leaders are worried the pandemic may cause a big blow in funding.
This year according to the Texas Education Agency, over 150,000 fewer students have enrolled in school. That's a drop of 2.85% compared to last year.
For schools in Texas, enrollment and attendance determines how much funding a district gets.
Because the pandemic caused a drop in enrollment, the state extended funds for the first 18-weeks of the academic year and based it on projected attendance instead.
That extension ends in January.
"We understand that funding drives everything from academics to athletics to fine arts. You gotta keep in mind that funding is the main driving source of how we operate our school systems," said Marlin ISD Superintendent Dr. Darryl Henson.
"Our actual enrollment numbers are increasing. We're at the highest numbers we've been at in the past three years, but we're still faced with the challenges of the average daily attendance," Dr. Henson continued.
For Marlin ISD, that could cost them $690,000 in funding.
"An impact that large, it'll impact personnel as well as resources that might also benefit our children every day," said Dr. Henson.
If Marlin ISD is forced to make budget cuts, the district says the first affected will be staff cuts at the administrative level or with maintenance and operations, not teachers in classrooms.
"After the pandemic, we know that we're going to see a raise in enrollment and a raise in average daily attendance," said the superintendent.
But with coronavirus vaccinations underway, Marlin ISD staff worries budget cuts may cause staff to be stretched thin.
"We're just looking forward to have our students and teachers back on campus every single day with no fear and understanding that our campuses are the safest they can be," said Dr. Henson.
This week, over 20 school and education organizations sent a letter to Governor Greg Abbott asking for an extension on funding into spring semester.