Thirteen Texas Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in which they criticized Gov. Greg Abbott for withholding federal stimulus funding intended for public education.
The approval of the two-year $250 billion state budget earlier this month was met with heavy criticism from school districts, education associations, and corporations for failing to release federal aid for state schools crippled by the impacts of the pandemic on education. Lawmakers have neglected to disburse the allocated $17.9 billion of additional federal funding intended for Texas school districts and made the release of funds contingent on investment in higher education.
Moreover, last year state leaders used over $1 billion of federal funding designated for the public education system from the first stimulus package last year to make up existing budget shortfalls.
Raise Your Hand Texas and other education advocacy groups have raised concerns about the learning loss suffered as a result of the pandemic, as well as the increased need for mental health resources, counselors and additional staff members.
“Due to bad faith denial and delay of these funds by Governor Abbott, not a single dollar of the already-approved ESSER funds have reached Texas schools,” the Democrats wrote in their letter to Cardona. “Governor Abbott is one of only two governors in the country to grab 100% of the [Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief] funds approved in the CARES Act, denying Texas schools direct access to $1.2 billion. These resources were desperately needed for pandemic-related expenses incurred during the last school year.”
Rep. Lloyd Doggett led the effort and was joined by twelve other Texas House Democrats: Joaquin Castro, Veronica Escobar, Vicente Gonzalez, Filemon Vela, Al Green, Marc Veasey, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Henry Cuellar, Colin Allred, Lizzie Fletcher, Sylvia R. Garcia and Sheila Jackson Lee.