Texas public schools could face a loss of state funding if they don't allow students on campus after the first eight weeks of the school year, but Gov. Greg Abbott (R) says there are ways for districts to create flexibility to work around the pandemic.
"School districts have the autonomy to decide exactly when they open," Abbott said. "They can reopen the school year in August, they can open the school year in September or even later than that if they so choose. Then second, school districts have the authority to decide how they are going to open."
If districts choose to adopt virtual learning for longer than the school year's first eight weeks, they would have to get an exception from the Texas Education Agency in order to continue to receive funding, Abbott said.
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Schools forced to close campus for sanitization due to a positive COVID-19 test would not be impacted from a funding standpoint. Nor would they be impacted if a local public health authority determines school need to shut down due to an outbreak in the area.
Last week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said local health departments could not close schools to prevent future COVID-19 infections.
Additionally, Texas has surpassed New York, the state with one of the earliest outbreaks, in the number of reported COVID-19 cases. While the numbers are high, Abbott pointed to his closure of bars and requirement that people in most counties wear a face covering as having led to an improvement in Texas.
Texas’ legislature is set to meet next year and Abbott said it might be time to tape into the state's financial reserves.
“I think everybody agrees that we will need to be tapping into the rainy day fund as we address during this once in a lifetime economic event, and the ability to have that money in reserve for the state of Texas is so tremendously helpful and that is exactly why we sock it away," he said. "W don't tap into it unless we really need to and this is one of those times when we really need to, and it will help us balance the state budget going forward."