Charles Butt, the chairman and CEO of San Antonio-based H-E-B, urged Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday to release federal funds to school districts as soon as possible in a letter sent Tuesday.
This year, Congress has approved two coronavirus aid packages that included $18 billion of funding for Texas schools. But state lawmakers have left that money out of preliminary drafts of the budget and say they are still ascertaining how that money is supposed to be used based on guidance from the federal government.
In Butt’s letter to Abbott, he said public schools “have been in disarray” and need the funds “as quickly as possible” so they can determine how to address critical issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic, like learning loss. The letter was first reported by Quorum Report in Austin.
“While other states have already dedicated much-needed funds to the classroom, Texas schools have yet to receive any dollars from rounds two or three of the federal stimulus packages,” Butt wrote. “Now is the time to provide financial assistance to our districts so they may begin making plans for this summer and the next school year.”
When Texas did receive the first stimulus package in 2020, which included $1.3 billion in school funding, the money was used to stabilize the state’s budget rather than going to the schools on top of their expected funding. Butt expressed concern that this could happen again.
“Using the money to fill other budget shortfalls would be extremely disappointing and a real disservice to our students,” Butt wrote.
Local superintendents have also expressed frustration about the holdup in recent interviews with KSAT 12 News.
“Part of the challenge in that planning (of a budget) is estimating what kind of resources are you going to have to dedicate to the plan. And when you can’t estimate those resources, it makes planning pretty challenging,” Northside ISD Superintendent Brian Woods said.
Schools need the funding as expenses have gone up during the coronavirus pandemic, San Antonio ISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said.
“We’re spending more money than ever, not only opening the schools, but keeping the schools open, keeping them safe,” Martinez said.