Texas is withholding millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief meant for Houston-area schools

Texas holding school pandemic funds
Texas holding school pandemic funds

HOUSTON – With a new school year less than two months away, it’s the biggest question on parents’ minds: What will school be like in the age of COVID-19?

“I would love to, as most people, to be able to send my children back in the safest way possible,” said Pearland mom Arwan Jackson. “Things are changing by the week, the day, much less August 18th, 19th when we go back.”

It’s not just the safety of sending kids back to school that concerns her. It’s the cost of that safety as well. The masks, the frequent deep cleans, the school buses running half-empty, the potential for more virtual learning, and computers for every student... who’s paying for all of that?

“There’s only so much cookie sales, dinners, and silent auctions,” Jackson said.

CARES Act entitlements for schools

When Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also knows as the CARES Act, it included billions of dollars for schools. The money was allocated to districts based on student population and income levels.

Houston Independent School District — the biggest school district in Texas, and eighth-largest in the U.S. — was supposed to get $81 million in federal money. Millions more were earmarked for other Houston-area districts. But they’re only getting a fraction of that money; enough to cover regular operating expenses for the previous school year, which was upended by COVID-19.

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