Radle: Abbott, Texas, Stiffing Public Schools on Federal Aid

Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation

By Patti Radle, 

Originally Published April 21, 2021, by the San Antonio Express-News, 

(Reposted with permission)

Photo by Austin Pacheco

Legislative leaders in Texas government are not passing on the money they have been given from the federal government that is meant to be spent by school districts to help with COVID-19 recovery.

These funds, known as the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, would help school districts deal with the expenses related to COVID-19 and prepare for students returning to in-person learning. Texas and New York are the only states that decided to hold on to the money and decide for themselves how to use it — which includes spending it on their regular state budget expenses.

Texas school districts have not seen a dime. It is no secret to anyone reading this that school budgets have suffered a lot of expenses due to COVID-19.

We have serious work to do to help our students recover lost learning time. San Antonio Independent School District has plans for recovery. Those plans come at a cost, and they must be implemented if we are serious about continuing on a successful path of improvement to achieve our goal of becoming an A-rated district.

Included in our plans are:

Funding accelerated learning and instructional initiatives such as the Additional Days School Year, appropriately designated evening and Saturday school, intersession programming and flex evening high school. These additional programs will provide much-needed opportunities for students to catch up on the learning they lost during the pandemic.

Funding social-emotional support staff and programs to address student needs as they adjust from remote learning back to in-person instruction. Our students have experienced a year like no other, and we plan to be fully prepared to address their mental health needs as they step back onto campus.

Funding to prepare our schools for the return of students for on-campus, in-person learning. It is our highest priority to ensure that students, faculty and staff are safe in our schools. We plan to continue providing campuses with the materials and PPE they need to protect every individual from the spread of COVID-19.

Every district in Texas is waiting.

What can you do? Lift up the issue any way you can, in a respectful manner. Write to Gov. Greg Abbott and your representatives in the Texas Legislature. Write to your federal representatives.

The SAISD board of trustees recently sent a resolution to the governor asking for the federal relief funds to be released to Texas school districts. Superintendent Pedro Martinez and I have been in conversation with state and federal decision-makers urging them to ensure the funds intended for schools get to schools. Other districts in the county and the state are doing the same.

We can all be a part of this effort to get the funds to our children and grandchildren. Like they say, “See something, say something.” For the sake of all our districts, for all of our students in Texas, please say something.

Patti Radle is president of the San Antonio Independent School District board of trustees.

Thanks to Fr. Séamus P. Finn, OMI for making us aware of this editorial