Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath announced this week that the state is reducing the minimum amount of minutes schools must operate this year, thereby helping schools dodge what would have been an inevitable funding cut for lower attendance.
The one-time adjustment will apply to the first 24 weeks of this school year.
“Providing this adjustment to the 2021-22 school year will ensure school systems have the funding they need to retain the best and brightest teachers and provide quality education to all public school students across Texas,” Abbott stated.
“We have made tremendous strides to return more of our students back to the classroom, and will continue in our efforts to do so.”
Texas law requires school districts and charter schools — collectively known as local education agencies (LEAs) — to operate for at least 75,600 minutes every school year.
If a disaster causes schools to close, the TEA commissioner can lower or waive this quota.
Public schools across Texas lost a substantial share of students during COVID-19. Since the state determines funding per school based on average daily attendance, a loss of students would normally result in a loss of money as well.
If a school district or charter experienced a lower attendance rate this year compared to the 2019-2020 year, then the TEA will adjust operational minutes as necessary to increase the average actual percentage attendance rate.
In other words, the TEA will not count operating minutes for days of low attendance.
While this adjustment is meant to cushion the blow of lost students, it does not continue the “hold harmless” policy that kept schools across Texas funded at pre-pandemic levels throughout the last school year.
“For the current academic year, this operational minute adjustment will result in the exclusion of operational minutes during those instructional days that schools have low percentage attendance rates, to ensure school districts have the financial resources to provide a high quality education to all students in Texas,” the governor’s statement reads.
“It does not hold a district harmless for losses of [average daily attendance] due to enrollment declines.”
In other words, only LEAs that lost attendance can qualify for the adjustment, and it won’t apply to the latter part of the school year.
“This will result in an adjustment that will ensure stabilized percentage attendance rates comparable to a more typical school year, rather than the low percentage attendance rates caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” the TEA stated.
“This is a one-time adjustment offered solely for funding purposes that will only be made for the 2021–2022 school year.”
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