Under mounting pressure from education advocates and Democrats, state leaders announced that they would release $11.2 billion out of nearly $18 billion available in federal pandemic relief funding that has been dedicated for the state’s public schools.
“The State of Texas is ensuring that our public schools have the necessary resources to help Texas students recover from learning loss related to COVID-19,” said Gov. Greg Abbott in a press release.
Having previously blocked the distribution of federal funds, the decision has been met with relief by educators struggling amid the aftermath of 2020. There is a pressing need for schools to address learning loss and additional expenses incurred as a result of the pandemic, including mental health resources and safety precautions.
Democrat Rep. Eddie Rodriguez led efforts to release funding and today passed the amendment releasing the funds. Earlier this month, Texas Democratic Congress members unanimously signed a letter urging U.S. Department of Education Secretary Cardona to take action against the obstruction of funds.
Education authorities and Democrats remain critical of state leadership for delaying the release of funds and have called for extra support. Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa accused Republicans of “putting politics over kids, and playing political games because they didn’t want President Biden to get credit for helping reopen schools safely.”
In a series of tweets today, Democrat Rep. Lloyd Doggett hit out at the Republicans.
“State Republicans are hardly justified in patting themselves on the back for ending a blockade that should never have occurred,” Doggett wrote. “After four months, Governor Abbott is still obstructing distribution of the remaining $5.5 billion, which Congress approved in December. Even today, he has failed to offer any justification for his delay and attempt to divert these funds from our schools. Our children’s future is not a place to cut corners and misuse federal aid to education for non-educational purposes.”