State Funds School Districts Despite Attendance Declines

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The state will not penalize school districts for students who aren’t attending class during the pandemic. Some students are not participating in online learning and normally that would cost their campuses money.  

Schools across the state struggled with additional expenses during the pandemic, having to buy plexiglass and PPE, not to mention having to buy pricey programs to conduct remote learning.

"We’ve had increased expenditures and a decrease in students and it’s had a huge impact on us," said Brent Ringo, Chief Financial Officer, Garland ISD. "From one to one to remote learning, all our staff are still employed and they get our kids to where they need to be and that’s the goal."

Ringo said the district had to tighten its belt to pay for the extra expenses and stood to lose money based on small decreases in attendance levels.

Schools are compensated based on how many students are in class each day. During the pandemic districts experienced much higher numbers of absent students than they normally have. In Garland ISD, about 3.2% of students were routinely absent.

"For us that’s about 1,780 kids, that’s about a $9 million impact on appropriations," said Ringo.

Dallas Independent School district told NBC 5, they estimate $30 million dollars was on the line in those attendance numbers.

For several months we've seen school districts across North Texas send school leaders door to door in search of absent students. They're trying to coax them back into the classroom. Of course, educating them is the priority but there's a financial impact as well.

In 2020, the state gave districts a "pass" on attendance numbers and financed them based on their 2019 attendance. Thursday's move by Governor Abbot and the Texas Education Agency extended that pass through the 2020-2021 school year.

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