Area superintendents say they aren’t getting all the pandemic funding they should be

Two school district leaders saying it’s more expensive to run a school than ever during COVID era

Students at Driggers Elementary School attend a class in-person as they interact with classmates virtually, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, in San Antonio. After seeing two academic years thrown off course by the pandemic, school leaders around the country are planning for the possibility of more distance learning next fall at the start of yet another school year. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Eric Gay, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – It’s not cheap running a school district during the coronavirus pandemic.

Superintendent Pedro Martinez says the San Antonio Independent School District is “very strict” about quarantining both staff and students in the case of possible COVID-19 exposures. As a result, it has had to add numerous long-term substitutes

“Bottom line is we’re incurring more money, more cost than ever to keep the schools open,” Martinez said.

But speaking with a joint committee of San Antonio City Council members and Bexar County Commissioners on Wednesday, Martinez and North East ISD Superintendent Sean Maika said they are not getting all the dollars they’re due to help pay for these extra costs.

So far, there have been two rounds of federal relief funding — the CARES Act in March 2020 and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) in December. The Texas Education Agency also held districts “harmless” for any attendance dips in the fall semester of the 2020-2021 school year.

However, Martinez said his district is not getting what they need.

And they (the state) used the first round of federal funding to say ‘we’re going to keep it’ - even though it’s meant for high poverty kids - by the way,” Martinez said. “So, ‘we’re going to keep it so that we can keep your funding whole next year.’ That’s what they said to us last spring. It was a myth. So, they only kept, you know, the general attendance. None of the poverty funding, none of the special-ed funding, none of those extra funds for children who have extra needs, has ever been held harmless.”

The Texas Education Agency says that all Texas school districts were fully funded for the 2019-2020 school year. No decisions have been made yet on how the $5.5 billion authorized by the CRRSA “will be used to supplant or supplement current school year funding.”

The CRRSA money doesn’t need to be distributed until January 2022, but Maika says districts are wrestling with learning gaps and a lack of resources now.

“So they’re asking us to do a huge lift here with no real assurance that those monies are going to be there,” Maika said.

SAISD released a statement to KSAT after the meeting saying the following:

“The federal funds being allocated to the state for education relief purposes, if directly funneled to school districts, would help bolster districts that continue to incur significant financial impacts due to the COVID-19 national emergency. These funds could be used to shore up gaps in the “Hold Harmless” methodology as well as provide opportunities for districts to address learning loss that students have experienced over the last year.”

Related: Dems attempt to push through school funding, wage increase

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.