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Texas Schools Are Failing To Tap Billions In Federal Dollars

The federal government pledged billions to help students recover from learning loss due to pandemic-related disruptions, but Texas has spent barely a third of it, and time is running out. 

The $18 billion appropriated by Congress can be spent on more teachers, salary increases, tutors, counseling, technology and even on upgrading school facilities. Any funds not spent in the next two years will be sent back to the U.S. Treasury. 

“This is by far the largest influx of federal money we have ever had,” said Cory Green, the Texas Education Agency’s associate commissioner of grant compliance administration at a state hearing in early July.

Pandemic-related learning loss has been well-documented in Texas. Spring 2021 STAAR results showed that 43% of all students met grade level in reading, down from 47% in 2019. In math, 35% of all students met grade level, down from the 50% in 2019.

Some districts have communicated difficulty spending funds within required criteria due to the labor shortage and even supply-chain issues. The Dallas ISD reported difficulty navigating the federal procurement process and few applicants for open positions. 

Texas Education Agency associate commissioner, Cory Green, said that schools are “having difficulty finding teachers that want to work in schools during the pandemic.”

School districts have wide discretion over how funds are allocated, but are expected to document and track the efficacy of their spending. “We will hopefully get some answers someday of what worked and what did not work,” remarked Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, chair of the Senate’s Finance Committee.

Nick Anderson
Nick Anderson
Writer, editor, photographer and editorial cartoonist Nick Anderson has joined the Reform Austin newsroom, where he will employ the artistic skill and political insights that earned a Pulitzer Prize to drive coverage of Texas government. As managing editor, Anderson is responsible for guiding Reform Austin’s efforts to give readers the unfiltered facts they need to hold Texas leaders accountable. Anderson’s original cartoons will be a regular feature on RA News. “Reform Austin readers understand the consequences of electing politicians who use ideological agendas to divide us, when they should be doing the hard work necessary to make our state government work for everyone,” Anderson said. “As a veteran journalist, I’m excited about Reform Austin’s potential to re-focus conversations on the issues that matter to common-sense Texans – like protecting our neighborhoods from increasingly common disasters, healthcare, just to name a few.” Anderson worked for the Houston Chronicle, the largest newspaper in Texas, from 2006 until 2017. In addition to the Pulitzer, Anderson earned the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Award. He’s also a two-time winner of Columbia College’s Fischetti Award, and the National Press Foundation’s Berryman Award. Anderson’s cartoons have been published in Newsweek, the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune and other papers. In 2005, Anderson won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning while working for the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky. The judges complimented his “unusual graphic style that produced extraordinarily thoughtful and powerful messages.”


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