SAN ANTONIO – Three San Antonio school districts are among an alliance of some of the largest school districts in Texas petitioning Gov. Greg Abbott for more flexibility and protected funding as they plan for a new school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
North East ISD, Northside ISD and San Antonio ISD are among 40 school districts from around the state represented in the Texas School Alliance. SAISD’s Pedro Martinez is also in the Texas Urban Council of Superintendents.
The groups, which represent nearly 40% of the state’s total pupil enrollment, sent a letter to Abbott requesting changes to the Texas Education Agency’s plan for schools.
They’re asking that the student attendance accounting requirements for the upcoming school year be waived to ensure that districts receive funding that has already been allocated to pay for current teachers and staff.
“The number of students that will be in remote instructional environments will undoubtedly be significant and the burdensome attendance accounting will be difficult for teachers and staff,” the letter states.
The districts want a “floor for average daily attendance” for this year that would not allow a district to fall below the final average daily attendance count from last school year.
“This would mean that no district would need to contemplate reductions in staffing or other budget cuts this fall at a time when students and their families will need more support from their schools,” the letter states.
The districts are also asking for more flexibility to design instructional systems based on the needs of families and current local health conditions.
“Some school districts may be able to hold school in person every day, but others may need to use a hybrid approach that would have groups of students learning in school and from home on alternating days,” district leaders said.
Right now, the TEA requires that schools must facilitate in-person learning every day for students who choose that mode of instruction. District leaders want to be allowed more flexibility without the fear of losing funding. They’re asking to be allowed a minimum of six to nine weeks of full online learning without a reduction in state aid.
The school leaders say the pandemic has created a need for new instructional delivery systems with “the potential to change nearly everything about how school districts do business, including constructing new staffing models, reworking transportation systems, retraining staff, and making sure students and staff have access to needed technology.”
They’re asking for “clarity and predictability” from the state by July 17.
A separate letter sent to Gov. Abbott from nine of the state’s school board presidents, including Patti Radle of SAISD, was written in support of the TSA/TUC letter.
It echoes the same requests of funding assurances and flexibility based on local health conditions.
“To say we are required to have in-class instruction – no matter what the situation is – is not only reckless but unsafe for our students and our staff,” the letter states.
The letter from the school board presidents also requests that school districts be allowed to prohibit students from attending school if they have been in contact with or exposed to someone with COVID-19. Current heath guidelines from the state indicate that it’s a parent’s decision whether a child can attend school.
On Tuesday, SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez announced a plan to push back the start of school by a week and to implement online-only learning until after Labor Day. The school board is set to vote on that plan on Monday.
Read the TSA/TUC and school board presidents’ letters below: