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Hold Harmless School Funding for the 2020-2021 school year is necessary

Your San Antonio Chamber, in joint efforts with the Metro 8 Chambers, has written a letter to Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath and State leaders requesting assurance that full funding will remain secure throughout the remaining part of the school year. Metro 8 is a group that represents the business sectors of Texas’ eight largest metropolitan areas: Arlington, Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio.

As a community, Texas has never faced the turmoil and uncertainty that 2020 has presented. The Texas business community collectively represents millions of employees with school-aged children at home, two-thirds of whom have had to make significant child care adjustments over the last eight months and one-quarter of whom are uncertain of their ability to return to work without a stable environment for their children outside of the home. Economic recovery over the next year requires strong public schools with reliable and consistent funding.

As Texas enters the ninth month of COVID-19 protection orders, Texas public schools continue to provide stable resources for over five million students, close to 700,000 full-time employees, and their families. From the first day of school closures, our schools became nimble engines of community support, developing online learning tools, packaging millions of meals-to-go, and significantly pivoting service and support models to adjust to this new volatile environment. Texas public schools will continue to be the backbone of a strong economy, not only because they are creating a strong future workforce, but also because they support the stability of families in the workforce now.

A “hold harmless” period was granted to school districts at the beginning of the school year to guarantee stable funding until approximately the end of the fall semester, not the entire 2020-2021 school year, after which school districts are only funded based on daily attendance and current enrollment levels.

Texas public schools are experiencing an average 4% enrollment drop (approximately a reduction of $300 million in state funding) compared to last school year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be present in our communities. A drop in student enrollment does not equate to a reduction in costs for school districts. Texas school districts are relying on full funding from the state to provide services to enrolled students, especially when these districts are incurring additional experiences related to added staff, PPE, devices and internet access for virtual learning, and other needs related to COVID-19.

Texas public schools provide many services for Texas students that go above and beyond just providing a high-quality education. Stable funding will allow districts to continue to care for their students in this new age of COVID-19. Our public schools should be supported by state leadership with the assurance that full funding levels will remain secure for the remaining 2020-2021 school year. A “hold harmless” extension to at least the end of the 2020-2021 school year is necessary to ensure the Texas economy can return to its rightful place as one of the strongest in the country.

For more information, contact Lisa Marie Gomez, Vice President of Education and Workforce Development at lmgomez@sachamber.org or by phone at 210.229.2134.

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