Saturday, April 24, 2021

Council Member Alter, Austin Council Demand State Release Federal Money and Fund Public Schools


Council Member Alter, Austin Council Demand State Release Federal Money and Fund Public Schools

Council Member Alison Alter authored a unanimously-approved resolution requesting that the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Legislature, and Governor Greg Abbott release currently withheld federal funding intended for public schools and provide the expected amount of state funding to local school districts. 
 
"Our public schools are key to the future of our state and our nation, and our kids deserve better from state leaders," said Council Member Alison Alter, who is also a co-founder of Just Fund It TX, a local advocacy group fighting to improve funding for Texas public schools. "So long as state leaders withhold billions of dollars from our children, both our kids and our economy will suffer."
 
Texas is one of only two states that has not given dedicated federal stimulus funding to its schools. To date, three rounds of federal funding totaling over $19 billion have been allocated for Texas K-12 schools. During the first round, state leaders released only $1.3 billion in federal money to Texas schools, but subsequently withheld an equivalent amount of state money, effectively supplanting expected state funds and leaving public school districts with no supplemental assistance. 
 
"Governor Abbott is playing politics with our children, our teachers and our schools," said Laura Yeager, co-founder and director of Just Fund It TX. "More than 60 percent of Texas students are considered economically disadvantaged and have great needs which have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is urgent that the remaining $17.9 billion in federal funding be sent to school districts immediately."
 
The Austin Independent School District stands to receive approximately $240 million in federal funding if the money is released and the Central Texas region would anticipate over a half a billion dollars. Local school districts have indicated the federal funds will be used for after-school programs; mental health support for students and staff; learning loss and support for students; school nurses; technology; and improved safety and ventilation at schools. 
 
"These funds are an essential part of our community's recovery," said Lynn Boswell, Austin Independent School District Trustee. "Districts know what our needs are, and we know how to use these funds well. But we can't do that until we know these funds are coming to our districts as Congress intended."

Council Member Alison Alter added, "The Covid relief for schools comes from the same acts that delivered help to local businesses and their employees through the Paycheck Protection Plan, provided direct payments to individuals, increased unemployment benefits, and funded local government gaps. We are more than a year into the pandemic and our public schools in Texas have seen virtually no relief. Our state government needs to change that."
 
Local advocacy organizations Raise Your Hand Texas and Just Fund It TX are asking Texans to contact state officials using an online toolkit to demand they release federal funding for public schools. 

You can read the full council resolution at https://www.austintexas.gov/edims/document.cfm?id=358018.

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