HOUSTON, Texas — You don’t often see teachers’ unions and school district leaders on the same page.
But educators across the state fear a financial free fall if a grace period for enrollment-based funding isn't extended.
"Funding in Texas is dependent on attendance and there has been an extreme decline in student enrollment due to the pandemic,” said Aldine AFT President Candis Houston.
KHOU 11 News first reported enrollment issues in October when data from 16 out of 20 Houston-area districts showed nearly 40,000 fewer students among them.
“Aldine ISD faces an enrollment decline of roughly 4,000 students," said Aldine ISD Superintendent Dr. LaTonya Goffney. "That’s an approximately 5.6% decrease in students compared to last year."
That would mean a loss of some $20 million for Aldine ISD.
It's something that could take an estimated $85 million toll on Houston ISD, resulting in likely staffing and other cuts at a crucial time.
The Texas Education Agency previously extended a grace period that keeps funding cuts from occurring due to enrollment dips.
And just this week, more than 20 education groups sent a letter to Governor Greg Abbott asking for another extension through at least the end of this school year.
"Our students are not missing, they have not disappeared," said Goffney. "We know they will return to our classrooms and we need to ensure we are ready.”
TEA Commissioner Mike Morath recently said he was still considering what to do next but had no immediate plans to extend the grace period.
Texas State Representative Armando Walle, who also serves as Harris County’s COVID recovery czar, believes any drastic cuts would ultimately hurt children and their families who rely on certain services more than ever.
"Don’t penalize these communities that are already behind the eight ball,” said Rep. Walle.
Right now, minimum funding guarantees are set to expire on December 31.
Houston ISD issued this statement in relation to the issue:
'We will continue working with federal and state lawmakers in an effort to secure fair and equitable funding needed to provide instructional continuity to the students of the Houston Independent School District."