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Congress gave billions in stimulus money to Texas public education — but schools have yet to see a new dime

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After Congress passed the first stimulus bill last year, officials used the state’s $1.3 billion education share to fill other holes in the state budget, leaving public schools with few additional resources to pay for the costs of the pandemic. Credit: Shelby Tauber for The Texas Tribune
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The Texas Tribune

BY DUNCAN AGNEW

Texas schools have yet to see an extra dime from the more than $19 billion in federal stimulus money given to the state. After Congress passed the first stimulus bill last year, officials used Texas’ $1.3 billion education share to fill other holes in the state budget. This left public schools with few additional resources to pay for the costs of the pandemic. Educators and advocacy groups now worry Texas could do the same thing with the remaining $17.9 billion in funding for Texas public schools from the other two stimulus packages.

Texas must invest over $1 billion of the state’s own budget in higher education to receive the third round of stimulus funding for K-12 public schools. Experts said the state has applied for a waiver to avoid sending that added money to higher education. This means Texas lawmakers likely will not decide how to parcel out the money until they either hear back from Washington D.C., or until the Legislature finalizes its plans for the state budget. But the waiver only applies to the latest stimulus package, so the state could unlock $5.5 billion for education from the second relief bill at any time.

A spokesperson for Gov. Greg Abbott said state leaders are waiting for more guidance from the U.S. Department of Education before school districts receive the federal money. Many Texas teachers and administrators say they need money now, and want the Legislature to start funneling the federal funds to school districts as soon as possible. But state lawmakers want the Legislature, instead of local school districts, to decide what to do with these federal stimulus dollars. Read the full storyby the Tribune’s Duncan Agnew. 

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