School districts urge Texas lawmakers to release billions in federal stimulus funds now in limbo

Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 6:52 PM CDT
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AUSTIN, Texas (KWTX) - About $17.9 billion in federal stimulus money previously allocated to public schools remains in limbo as lawmakers work out the state’s budget for the next two years.

State officials said the funds are held up, in part, because Texas has to either invest an extra $1.2 billion in higher education before it can receive the nearly $18 billion for K-12 public education or apply for a waiver.

“We don’t understand necessarily what Texas is trying to do,” Bob Popinski, the director of policy of the nonprofit Raise your Hand Texas, told KWTX.

He said that 40 other states have already found ways to flow these federal funds to their school districts and that Texas has not been transparent about what it is trying to do.

That has left many school districts trying to chart out their budgets for the next school year without knowing how much they will have.

“It’s like, you know, the state is dangling a winning lottery ticket in front of us,” Jennifer Land, the chief financial officer of Belton Independent School District, told KWTX.

“We just don’t know if we’re ever going to cash in on it,” she said.

She said that the additional federal funds could “heighten” the services that the district provides to its students including expanding summer enrichment programs or even potentially continuing to offer virtual learning next school year.

State lawmakers have not yet factored the federal funds into their quarter trillion dollar budget.

“If they don’t put it in the state budget by the end of the session, who will have authority over those funds?” said Popinski.

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