Due to the coronavirus, school districts across Bexar County haven’t been penalized for average attendance and enrollment figures, which is normally tied to State funding. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

San Antonio’s 17 school districts stand to lose about $85 million over the spring semester if the state does not extend funding protections that have been in place since the beginning of the school year, according to the Bexar County Education Coalition.

In October, Morath extended the “hold harmless” funding guarantee for the first 18 weeks of school. Texas public schools are funded by the state based on a combination of student enrollment and average daily attendance, both of which have dropped during the coronavirus pandemic. The hold-harmless protection meant that school districts would not lose revenue.

Superintendents for the 17 school districts signed a letter from the coalition Friday to Gov. Greg Abbott and state Education Commissioner Mike Morath, urging them to consider extending the funding protections for the rest of the 2020-2021 school year.

The Bexar County Education Coalition represents 17 school districts, 360,000 students, and about 50,000 full-time employees. Executive Director Julia Grizzard said every district in the county has been affected by decreases in student enrollment and attendance.

“Our districts are going to care for our students no matter where they are and what they’re dealing with,” she said. “They’re going to ensure that they have the best education and a safe environment. That costs money, whether students are at home or in school. We all would agree that volatile funding is the last thing that they need while they’re trying to provide for their students in the middle of a global pandemic.”

North East Independent School District has lost about $11 million in revenue for the current school year, Superintendent Sean Maika said. He estimated that the district would be able to recoup roughly $3 million of that, while still needing to purchase Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots as students switch between in-person and remote instruction.

“As COVID continues to evolve, we have to continue to adjust to it,” he said.

Maika said the hold-harmless funding guarantee helps school officials not worry about money and allows them to focus instead on educating students in safe environments, closing learning gaps that have been referred to as the “COVID slide.”

North East ISD’s student enrollment dropped by about 3,500 for the 2020-2021 school year, Maika said. Most of those students would have been in prekindergarten or kindergarten, but many parents across the state have chosen not to send their students to school campuses during the pandemic.

“We have less enrollment, but those kids have higher needs than we have seen due to being out of school for so long,” he said.

The Bexar County Education Coalition joins 23 other educational organizations that have called for TEA to extend the hold-harmless protection, including the nonprofit Raise Your Hand Texas, the Texas State Teachers Association, and the Texas Association of School Boards.

Brooke Crum covered education for the San Antonio Report.