Texas state agencies have worked to offset expenses to stretch their budgets during the coronavirus pandemic. For example, there have been grace periods for renewing driver’s licenses and other registrations.
The same holds true for the Texas Education Agency, which in a normal year reimburses local school districts based on the number of students who attend each day.
But until now there’s been a grace period known as a “hold harmless guarantee” where school districts were paid as if they had normal enrollment. That ends on Thursday.
“District budget officials have already started having difficult conversations about what sort of programmatic cuts they can make, basically sort of looking at everything they can do to either start tapping into their reserve funds,” said Shelby Webb, an education reporter for the Houston Chronicle.
Statewide, schools have seen their enrollments drop by 4-5%. But some districts have seen it fall by as much as 15%. That worries school officials they may be heading to a fiscal cliff if state leaders don’t extend the hold harmless period and continue funding districts at pre-pandemic levels.
“Commissioner Mike Morath told The Chronicle’s editorial board back in November that some districts are going to face more challenges with this than others and that they’re working to make sure that they receive the additional support they may need,” Webb said. “Other than that, there hasn’t been any really concrete evidence or any sort of conversations, at least publicly from TEA, that it will be for sure extended for everybody or who it could be extended for.”