This page was updated on Jan. 21, 2021.

  1. May districts use migrant funds to provide migrant students with food and toiletries during the pandemic? (updated 8/13/20)
  2. Will our schools have enough money next year or are we going to have widespread budget cuts and/or reductions in force (RIFs)? (updated 8/13/20)
  3. Can high school students who are served fully on-campus or through a hybrid on-campus plan receive full-day funding if they attend school for 240 minutes each day? (updated 8/13/20)
  4. What funding is available under the federal CARES Act? (updated 9/16/20)
  5. Is FEMA reimbursement available to districts for COVID-19 expenses? (posted 9/22/20)
  6. Where can I find the ESSER grant entitlement amounts available through the federal CARES Act that my district will receive and what are the terms? (updated 8/13/20)
  7. Will the ESSER funding (CARES Act) allow districts to pay for the direct costs incurred for planning and mitigation of the coronavirus pandemic such as, but not limited to, additional technology, hot spots for internet service, costs of distance learning, and cleaning of buildings to include staff time and supplies? 
  8. Is there TEA guidance on ESSER funding (CARES Act) and paying district employees and contractors? (updated 8/13/20)
  9. Can a district pay for normal operating costs like utilities with ESSER grant money? (updated 8/13/20)
  10. What funding options are available for internet access, devices or technological materials for students or educators? (updated 1/21/21)
  11. What are some additional details related to the Coronavirus Relief Fund Operation Connectivity Bulk-Purchase Local Match Reimbursement Program? (12/7/20)
  12. What are some additional details related to Operation Connectivity Prior Purchase Reimbursement Program? (updated 1/21/21)
  13. May districts charge students for materials and devices to be used at home for remote instruction and what can a district do if materials are not returned in an acceptable condition? (updated 8/13/20)
  14. Will receiving ESSER (CARES Act) formula funds result in a loss of Foundation School Program (FSP) State Aid? (updated 8/13/20)
  15. Will there be proration in the Foundation School Program for the 2020-21 school year? (updated 10/2/20)
  16. What constitutes on-campus instruction for purposes of generating funding? (11/5/20)
  17. Is all this CARES Act money from the feds going to supplement ADA funding flows or is it only to reimburse specific expenditures by specific schools? (updated 8/13/20)
  18. Are we required to apply for the ESSER Grant? (updated 8/13/20)
  19. Is the ESSER grant separate and in addition to regular formula (FSP) funding? And then the regular formula (FSP) funding will be part FSP/part ESSER? (updated 8/13/20)
  20. When will districts find out the amount of the ESSER reduction to their refined ADA? (updated 8/13/20)
  21. How much reimbursement can we anticipate receiving under the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CARES Act)? (updated 9/16/20)
  22. What is the timeline for requesting the reimbursement under the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CARES Act)? (updated 9/2/20)
  23. Is the cost of printing curriculum packets a reimbursable COVID-related expense? (updated 8/13/20)
  24. Are there unallowable costs under the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CARES Act)? (updated 8/13/20)

The answers to questions we've compiled do not constitute legal advice. The situation is changing rapidly, and key factors will differ from school district to school district. This information will be updated as new details emerge, but we encourage TCTA members with specific questions to call our staff attorneys at 888-879-8282. Members with general inquiries can submit them through the Ask-a-Lawyer portal.

For more COVID-19 FAQs about 2020-21, click here

Funding and Budget Issues

May districts use migrant funds to provide migrant students with food and toiletries during the pandemic?

In its Federal Funding and Grants FAQ, TEA maintains that districts must continue to ensure that eligible migratory children are provided services from other available Federal, State, and local programs for which they are eligible. However, during this emergency, if food is not immediately available from other programs, the Texas Migrant Education Program may provide food to meet the identified needs of migratory children for a limited period, until other resources become available. In addition, during these extraordinary circumstances, districts may take an approach to ensure eligible migratory children are able to access other necessities when there is a delay or lack of availability from other sources. Such necessities may include, but are not limited to, cleaning supplies for disinfection/sanitation purposes, first aid supplies, personal hygiene supplies, eyeglasses, hearing aids and batteries, and loaned equipment to access online learning.

Will our schools have enough money in 2020-21 or are we going to have widespread budget cuts and/or reductions in force (RIFs)?

We are currently in the first year of a two-year state budget, so state appropriations have already been approved in amounts that would cover current services as usual for the upcoming school year. TEA has provided guidance noting that while decisions such as closures and how to handle absences are still made at the local level, state funding will continue to flow as usual, and students who are being taught remotely are counted for purposes of school funding.

It is possible that changes might have to be made at the state level if the economic problems become long term and state revenues plunge to a point where these appropriations are no longer possible. And local school district revenues might also take a hit if citizens are unable to pay their property tax bills. TCTA will be monitoring the budget situation closely and will work to ensure that decision-makers prioritize spending for public education.

Can high school students who are served fully on-campus or through a hybrid on-campus plan receive full-day funding if they attend school for 240 minutes each day?

Per TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 7/28/20), the answer is no. There are two requirements for school districts to generate full-day ADA funding: students are provided 240 minutes of instruction per day, and campuses are open for operation for 75,600 minutes annually (this translates to 420 minutes of operation per day in a 180-day instructional calendar). In this scenario the campus would need to operate a 315-day instructional calendar to meet the annual minute requirement. The on-campus calendar determines the district’s compliance with the 75,600 operational minute requirement. In addition, students are required to be on campus for at least 40% of the days in each grading cycle (typically 6- or 9-week periods). For information on high school hybrid remote learning see above.

What funding is available under the federal CARES Act?

According to TEA's CARES Act Funding and Expense Reimbursement FAQ (5/21/20), multiple fund sources for K-12 education are included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. There are four that will potentially impact districts.

  • Section 18003, Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) — a minimum of 90% of the ESSER grant to TEA will be allocated to districts that received Title I, Part A funding in school year 2019-20.
  • Title VIII of Division B, Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) — this funding will provide reimbursement to the small number of districts that provided childcare to the children of essential workers as defined in the statute.
  • Section 5001, Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) — this funding is administered by the governor’s office and is designated for state, high population county and city uses. The governor and legislative leadership have approved an amount of the state’s portion of the CRF for use in reimbursing school systems for COVID-19 expenses incurred as of close of business May 20, 2020. As a result, TEA is creating an expense reimbursement application process similar to that used by FEMA. The Texas Division of Emergency Management is providing guidance regarding the CRF school district reimbursement program. The application will close on Sept. 30. Per TEA’s CARES Act Funding and Expense Reimbursement FAQ (updated 9/10/20) payments from the CRF may be used to cover costs associated with providing distance learning (e.g., the cost of laptops to provide to students) or for in-person learning (e.g., the cost of acquiring personal protective equipment for students attending schools in-person or other costs associated with meeting Centers for Disease Control guidelines). As an administrative convenience, expenses of up to $500 per elementary and secondary school student are presumed eligible expenditures, such that schools do not need to document the specific use of funds up to that amount.
  • Title VIII of Division B, School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) — this funding is anticipated to be released by the U.S. Department of Education in the fall and is expected to be a formula grant program which could fund some additional COVID-19 related expenditures.

The National School Lunch program also received additional funding under the CARES Act to support additional meals provided through their normal formula program.

For more information, see TCTA's Cares Act summary, TEA's CARES Act Funding and Expense Reimbursement FAQ (updated 5/21/20) and TEA's CARES Act Funding Support for districts (updated 6/18/20).

Is FEMA reimbursement available to districts for COVID-19 expenses?

Per TEA’s SY 20-21 FEMA FAQ (updated 9/17/20), Category B costs are allowable FEMA expenses for districts during the pandemic. Emergency measures eligible expenses under FEMA include:

  • Medical care, in accordance with COVID-19 specific policy or subsequent updates.
  • Purchase and distribution of food, in accordance with COVID-19 specific policy or subsequent updates.
  • Non-congregate medical sheltering, in accordance with COVID-19 specific policy or subsequent updates.
  • Operation of Emergency Operations Centers to direct and coordinate resources and response activities for COVID-19 declarations.
  • Communications to disseminate public information regarding health and safety measures and provide warnings about risks and hazards.
  • Mass casualty management, including storage of human remains and mass mortuary services, as necessary to manage fatalities caused by COVID-19.
  • Purchase and distribution of PPE that is directly related to the performance of otherwise eligible emergency work, or is provided to healthcare workers, patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection, and first responders.
  • Funding for stockpiling a supply of eligible PPE is limited to a supply that is projected for up to 60 days from date of purchase.
  • Funding for storing eligible PPE is limited to what is necessary to store a projected 60-day PPE supply.

FEMA reimbursement also will be available to districts for one cleaning that took place in the spring. FEMA will not reimburse for cleaning in preparation for school openings as those costs are now considered operational and not in response to an emergency. For more information related to FEMA reimbursement, please see the 20-21 FEMA FAQ.

Where can I find the ESSER grant entitlement amounts available through the federal CARES Act that my district will receive and what are the terms?

The entitlements are posted to the grant entitlements web page under the federal funds section of the TEA Grants web page.

The ESSER grant is distributed as a formula grant based on the proportionate share of the state’s Title I, Part A allocation received by each district in 2019-20. This is a statutory formula program and each eligible district will receive an entitlement amount for which they may apply by submitting the grant application. Only districts that are eligible, apply for, and received Title I, Part A funds in 2019-20 are eligible for ESSER grants.

The grant application will release in June. Training on the application will be made available around the opening date of the application. The grant period will end Sept. 30, 2022. All eligible expenditures must occur within the grant period.

Will the ESSER funding (CARES Act) allow districts to pay for the direct costs incurred for planning and mitigation of the coronavirus pandemic such as, but not limited to, additional technology, hot spots for internet service, costs of distance learning, and cleaning of buildings to include staff time and supplies?

Yes. Ninety percent (90%) of the ESSER funding is a formula grant program to districts based on a statutory formula. All these types of costs appear to be allowable costs under the ESSER grant program. The following activities are allowable under the grant as specified in the statute.

  • Districts discretion for any purpose under:
    • Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
    • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
    • Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA)
    • Perkins Career and Technical Education Act
    • McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act
  • Activities related to coordination of preparedness and response to improve coordinated responses among districts with state and local health departments and other relevant agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus
  • Provide principals and others school leaders with the resources necessary to address the needs of their individual schools
  • Address the unique needs of low-income children or students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster students including how outreach and service delivery will meet the needs of each population
  • Developing and implementing procedures and systems to improve the preparedness and response efforts of districts
  • Training and professional development of district staff on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean facilities operated by the district
  • Planning for and coordinating during long term closures, including for how to provide meals to eligible students, how to provide technology for on line learning to all students, how to provide guidance for carrying out requirements under IDEA, and how to ensure other educational services can continue to be provided consistent with all federal, state and local requirements
  • Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity) for students who are served by the local educational agency that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors, including low income students and students with disabilities, which may include assistive technology or adaptive equipment
  • Providing mental health services and supports
  • Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental afterschool programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months and addressing the needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.
  • Setting up and using technology to remotely register and enroll students or recruit and hire staff.
  • Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in districts and continuing to employ existing staff.

Is there TEA guidance on ESSER funding (CARES Act) and paying district employees and contractors?

Districts that receive ESSER funds are required, to the greatest extent practicable, to continue to pay employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to Coronavirus. Related guidance is available at TEA’s Federal Funding and Grants FAQ (updated 5/21/20).

Can a district pay for normal operating costs like utilities with ESSER grant money?

According to TEA’s Federal Funding and Grants FAQ (updated 6/16/20), if the district can document normal operating costs like utilities as an allowable activity under the statutory allowable activities then it can pay for them with ESSER funds.

What funding options are available for internet access, devices or technological materials for students or educators?

The technology and instructional materials allotment can be used to pay for technological equipment that contributes to student learning, including equipment that supports the use of instructional materials (TAC §66.1307). Laptops, tablets, hotspots, and other technological equipment used for virtual instruction are allowable allotment expenses. The allotment can also be used to pay for providing access to technological equipment for instructional use (TAC §66.1307). This includes digital tools used for supporting students’ virtual learning, such as platforms to provide virtual instruction (e.g. Zoom, Google Classroom, Microsoft TEAMS) and internet access or data plans needed for virtual instruction.

In addition, two reimbursement programs authorized by the CARES Act are available to reimburse school districts for certain expenditures made during the pandemic:

  • The Coronavirus Relief Fund Operation Connectivity Bulk-Purchase Local Match Reimbursement Program (LMRP) provides reimbursement funding to eligible districts to facilitate distance learning, including technological improvements, in connection with school closings to enable compliance with COVID-19 precautions and for developing online learning capabilities. This program aims to connect all of Texas’s 5.5 million public school students with a device and reliable internet connection. Texas allocated $200 million in CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund funding to match $200 million in local district funding.
  • The Operation Connectivity Prior Purchase Reimbursement Program (PPRP) provides reimbursement funding to public school districts and charter schools that expended funds from May 21, 2020, to Jan. 31, 2021, for eligible technology-related purchases (laptops, tablets, and/or hotspots) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Purchases must be outside of the Operation Connectivity Bulk Purchase Order Program.The program, jointly administered by TEA and TDEM, will reimburse districts for costs incurred since the 2019-20 school year if the district locally purchased eLearning devices (laptops, tablets, and Chromebooks) and/or Wi-Fi hotspots. This reimbursement program builds on the progress made by the Operation Connectivity Bulk Purchase program.

For these two state-determined reimbursement programs, the district is not required to document the use of funds (up to $500 per elementary and secondary student) for a safe reopening of schools. If the amount of CRF received by a district for safe reopening of schools exceeds $500 per student, the amount received exceeding that threshold must be documented to specific allowable CRF activities.

Further information may be found in TEA’s document, CARES Act Funding and Expense Reimbursement FAQ (updated 9/10/20).

What are some additional details related to the Coronavirus Relief Fund Operation Connectivity Bulk-Purchase Local Match Reimbursement Program?

TEA released the Operation Connectivity Playbook for school district use in consideration as they continue to triage and solve the immediate connectivity needs of their students. It is an iterative document that will continue to be improved and expanded as Operation Connectivity gathers more best practices from school districts, ESCs, and subject matter experts. TEA also released its Operation Connectivity Bulk Order FAQ (updated 7/17/20) regarding school districts submitting bulk orders for hotspots and devices under the program. Included is information that hotspots/devices related to teacher connectivity are eligible for the bulk order program.

CRF local match funds by the city or county for Operation Connectivity may not be considered as categories of medical expenses, public health expenses, and payroll expenses for employees substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the public health emergency. TEA has permitted the ESSER Grant to be allowable as local matching funds. This combined $400 million in bulk buying power will be used to cover the purchases of internet solutions such as hotspots and e-learning devices for Texas’ school districts. More information is available at Operation Connectivity Guide (8/13/20) and Operation Connectivity State Funding Program (8/3/20).

What are some additional details related to Operation Connectivity Prior Purchase Reimbursement Program? 

According to the TEA CARES Act Funding and Expense Reimbursement FAQ (updated 12/3/20) and SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 1/14/21), public school districts and charter schools that expended funds from May 21, 2020, to Jan. 31, 2021, for eligible technology purchases due to the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible for Operation Connectivity Prior Purchase Reimbursement Program (PPRP). Purchases must be outside of the Operation Connectivity Bulk Purchase Order Program and school districts must be in good standing within the Operation Connectivity program for their PPRP application to receive top priority for funding.

Eligible devices include laptops (including Chromebooks), tablets and hot spots purchased (costs incurred by the LEA) on or after May 21, 2020, through Jan. 31, 2021, that will be received by the district by Feb. 28, 2021. Required fees to make the device functional, such as Chromebook licenses, hot spot data plans (through the end of the 2020-21 school year) and CIPA filtering, are also allowable costs when associated with the eligible devices.

The funds must be expended by the district by one of the following methods:

  • Reclassification of all eligible expenses originally charged to state/local funds, to these federal reimbursement funds. This is the preferable use of this reimbursement funding if the district can reclassify expenses in the prior fiscal year or if the original expenditure occurred in the district’s current fiscal year.
  • If due to the timing of the reimbursement, the district cannot reclassify the original expenditures in the prior fiscal year due to the reimbursement funding being received in the subsequent fiscal year, then the district may reconcile the reimbursement on the FY2020-21 Schedule of Expenditures of Federal Awards (SEFA).

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act of 2021, enacted on 12/27/20, includes additional stimulus funding to be available to districts and an extension to the end date of the CRF funding (which is funding PPRP) to Dec. 31, 2021.

Given this new federal extension, TEA has made the following limited changes to the PPRP program to allow LEAs more time and flexibility to maximize their potential for reimbursement:

  • TEA is suspending processing the PPRP applications based on the new timeline below.
  • The application/amendment process has been reopened.
  • The deadline for ordering devices has been extended to Jan. 31, 2021.
  • All requests for new applications or amendments must be received by Jan. 31, 2021. Send an email to customerservice@teabulkorder.com to request an amendment or new application.
  • If a district previously submitted a PPRP application and does not request an amendment by Jan. 31, 2021, the original application will be processed for reimbursement.
  • All amendments and new applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. Feb. 15, 2021.
  • All eligible devices to be reimbursed must be received by Feb. 28, 2021.
  • There will be no further extensions or exceptions to the program timeline or deadlines.
  • TEA expects the final reimbursement percentage to be closer to the originally anticipated 75% reimbursement rate and will determine the reimbursement rate after the revised application period closes.
  • TEA reserves the right to ratably reduce or increase the 75% reimbursement rate to ensure all CRF funds are allocated and expended, depending on the statewide total request for reimbursement received from all eligible LEAs that apply.
  • No other program changes are expected due to the timeline extension.

May districts charge students for materials and devices to be used at home for remote instruction and what can a district do if materials are not returned in an acceptable condition?

Per TEA’s, Operation Connectivity Funding Allocation for Bulk Purchase document (updated 8/4/20), a district may not charge fees for instructional materials, workbooks, laboratory supplies, or other supplies necessary for participation in any instructional course with a few exceptions. A district may charge a security deposit for the return of materials, supplies, or equipment.

Additionally, a student who fails to return in an acceptable condition all instructional materials and technological equipment forfeits the right to free instructional materials and technological equipment until all instructional materials and technological equipment previously issued but not returned in an acceptable condition are paid for by the student, parent, or guardian.

Districts/schools may withhold student records if materials are not returned in acceptable condition or if fees are not paid but may not prevent students from graduating.

Will receiving ESSER (CARES Act) formula funds result in a loss of Foundation School Program (FSP) State Aid?

According to TEA’s CARES Act Funding and Expense Reimbursement FAQ, districts will receive their full FSP entitlement as earned through the first two-thirds of the school year before school closures. In addition, districts will receive additional FSP hold harmless funding delivered via ADA/minutes adjustments to mitigate the financial impact of school closure. This additional hold harmless will be offset by the ESSER formula funding. For more information, see the General State Funding FAQ located on the TEA Coronavirus website under the Funding and Waivers.

Will there be proration in the Foundation School Program for the 2020-21 school year?

According to TEA’s CARES Act Funding and Expense Reimbursement FAQ, the General Appropriations Act provided sufficient funds for the FSP for 2020-21. However, significant economic uncertainty remains, and the size of the decline in state revenues relative to what was estimated in the Appropriations Act because of COVID-19 is currently unknown. Given the supplementation of funds from ESSER and reductions in actual vs expected spending, TEA does not currently project a need for proration, however the facts could change over the coming year.

For the 2020-21 school year, TEA will implement an average daily attendance grace period for the first two six-week attendance reporting periods that will ensure districts do not receive less ADA during those two six-weeks periods than an ADA number calculated using a three-year average trend from the 2017-18 through 2019-20 school years.

TEA will make available an ADA hold harmless for the third six-week attendance reporting period on the condition that all families who want their children to attend on campus within the district have the ability to do so each day that instruction is offered, subject to two exceptions. One exception is for students attending high school less than daily in districts that have been approved to offer a hybrid-only high school instructional setting. The other exception is for school systems that choose to temporarily limit on-campus access for up to 5 days, due to a confirmed COVID-19 case on campus.

For more on school funding, see TEA’s SY 20-21 Reopening Guidance Summary (updated 7/21/20), SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment (updated 7/21/20) and Attestation Statement for ADA Hold Harmless Beyond the First Two Six-Week Reporting Periods (updated 10/1/20).

What constitutes on-campus instruction for purposes of generating funding?

Per TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 10/29/20) in meeting on-campus instruction requirements for purposes of generating funding, public schools have two options.

The primary method of meeting the on-campus instruction requirement is by providing instruction in accordance with the Student Attendance Accounting Handbook, without reliance on the COVID-19 based waivers for remote synchronous or asynchronous instruction methods. It should be noted that the SAAH, for on-campus online courses not provided through the TXVSN, states that "[f]or the duration of [a] course, a certified teacher for the appropriate grade level must be present in the room in which the student is taking the course to answer questions and otherwise assist the student."

Given the variances in staffing capacity at schools and the impact of COVID-19 on communities, an alternative method will satisfy the requirements for on-campus instruction for the 2020-21 school year. The agency will treat on-campus instructional methods that would otherwise not generate instructional minutes for full- or half-day funding, due to a certified teacher not being present in the room with the students, as on-campus instruction if the students receive instructional support from staff who have the capacity and expertise to provide academic support specific to the student’s grade level and content area. Some of the instruction may still be remotely delivered to on-campus students, but those students must also receive in-person instructional support for it to be considered on-campus attendance. It is important to note that this alternative method must otherwise satisfy the requirements of the SAAH.

If students are on-campus and engaging in remote instruction with no in-person instructional support specific to their grade level and content areas, then that would be considered remote instruction and would need to follow all remote instruction requirements, including marking the students as RA-Present or RS-Present for funding purposes.

Is all this CARES Act money from the feds going to supplement ADA funding flows or is it only to reimburse specific expenditures by specific schools?

According to TEA’s CARES Act Funding and Expense Reimbursement FAQ (5/28/20), currently there are two large funding streams from the CARES Act that will impact K-12 education in the state. (There are also several smaller funding streams.) The ESSER fund flows to school districts. A portion of the ESSER fund would supplement expected FSP funding in district budgets (roughly 5% of the ESSER formula total per LEA, which would be used to cover any requested private school equitable services, but if no/fewer requests are received, would be extra funding for any lawful purpose). The remainder will be used as a source of funds for the Foundation School Program ADA Hold Harmless, and so would not be supplemental funding.

The CRF is a reimbursement program. These are supplemental funds to school districts, intended to cover extra COVID-19 expenses.

Are we required to apply for the ESSER Grant?

According to TEA’s CARES Act Funding and Expense Reimbursement FAQ (5/28/20), ESSER funds will be used as a method of finance for the FSP for all districts that are entitled to receive the funds through the Title I allocation methodology prescribed by the grant and in the amount outlined in the Entitlements Document located on the TEA Coronavirus website. A school district is not technically required to apply; however, the amount of ESSER grant funds to which each school district is entitled (minus 5% private school equitable services) will be incorporated while calculating the ADA hold harmless adjustment, regardless of whether the school district applies for the grant or not. If a school district does not apply for the ESSER grant, this would result in a net loss of overall revenue.

Is the ESSER grant separate and in addition to regular formula (FSP) funding? And then the regular formula (FSP) funding will be part FSP/part ESSER?

According to TEA’s CARES Act Funding and Expense Reimbursement FAQ (5/28/20), the ESSER grant is a new, federal fund source that is separate from a school district’s FSP allotment. However, because ESSER Funding will actually be used as a method of finance for the 2019-20 ADA Hold Harmless, school districts must combine the ESSER grant with the remainder of the normal FSP allotment in order to account for the total FSP allotment, as previously expected prior to COVID-19:

  • TEA waived the necessary statutory requirements so school systems would be held harmless for the lack of in-person attendance required to receive formula funding.
  • The CARES Act’s ESSER fund is a critical resource to support this hold harmless process. ESSER funds do not have a supplement versus supplant requirement, and federal guidance explicitly authorizes their use as a way for states to sustain their school finance system, as long as net state funding remains above prior years. With historic increases to state funding through HB 3, funding is significantly above prior years.
  • TEA will calculate how much CARES Act ESSER formula funding a school district is going to get, excluding 5% of that CARES formula total to ensure each school district has an amount of funding sufficient to cover the private school equitable services requirements in the CARES Act.
  • TEA will use that CARES Act formula funding (excluding the 5%) to help fund the full amount of each school district’s ADA hold harmless adjustment and the result will be that school districts will receive their full year’s ADA funding expectation but from two funding streams – one state, via the FSP, and one federal, via CARES Act ESSER funds.
  • Utilizing ESSER funds as a method of finance will assist in maintaining state funding for future years.

When will districts find out the amount of the ESSER reduction to their refined ADA?

According to TEA’s General State Funding FAQs (5/28/20), the actual ADA reduction will be calculated as part of near final settle-up in September 2020. While school districts can attempt to model the amount of the ADA reduction using existing state funding templates, TEA can't estimate the ADA reduction required until after they incorporate the adjusted PEIMS refined ADA into the summary of finances in September 2020. However, TEA is also planning to update the school finance excel template to incorporate the ESSER grant amounts later this summer.

How much reimbursement can we anticipate receiving under the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CARES Act) and what costs are allowable to be reimbursed?

Districts will be eligible for up to 75% of additive expenses incurred as of close of business May 20, 2020, to be reimbursed subject to a cap per district, and subject to CRF funding availability as described below. Each district will be capped at a reimbursement amount equal to the greater of $50,000 or an amount equal to $250 per compensatory education (SCE) student in the district. This would allow for every district, regardless of size or SCE student count, to receive at least $50,000 assuming they incurred at least $67,000 in underlying reimbursable expenses. For districts with more than 200 SCE students, their reimbursement would be capped at an amount equal to $250 per SCE student. This reimbursement will not be provided in addition to reimbursement from other expense reimbursement sources.

To be allowable, reimbursements for necessary costs must:

  • Have been incurred due to COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Not be accounted for in the most recently approved budget as of March 27, 2020; and
  • Be incurred from March 1, 2020, through May 20, 2020. This statutory requirement constitutes a supplement, not supplant provision for CRF funds. The Department of Treasury guidance document specifically lists the following types of education costs.
  • Expenses to facilitate distance learning, including technological improvements and the cost of laptops to provide to students, in connection with school closings to enable compliance with COVID-19 precautions;
  • Expenses for safe in-person learning (e.g., the cost of acquiring personal protective equipment for students attending schools in-person or other costs associated with meeting Centers for Disease Control guidelines); and
  • Other eligible expenditures include payroll and benefit costs of educational support staff or faculty responsible for developing online learning capabilities necessary to continue educational instruction in response to COVID-19-related school closures.

Texas Division of Emergency Management is providing guidance regarding the CRF school district reimbursement program. 

Per TEA’s CARES Act Funding and Expense Reimbursement FAQ (updated 9/10/20) payments from the CRF may be used to cover costs associated with providing distance learning (e.g., the cost of laptops to provide to students) or for in-person learning (e.g., the cost of acquiring personal protective equipment for students attending schools in-person or other costs associated with meeting U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines). As an administrative convenience, expenses of up to $500 per elementary and secondary school student are presumed eligible expenditures, such that schools do not need to document the specific use of funds up to that amount.

What is the timeline for requesting the reimbursement under the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CARES Act)?

The application will open on or around July 20, 2020, and close on Sept. 30, 2020. Once all applications are received and the application window is closed, TEA will calculate the amount eligible for reimbursement for all districts across the state who submitted applications. After the individual reimbursements are calculated, and the district’s application is reviewed, negotiated, and approved, the district will receive the Notice of Grant Award (NOGA). After the NOGA is received, the district may drawdown the funds for reimbursement. The district may request payment for reimbursement from the date the NOGA is received until Dec. 15, 2020. Texas Division of Emergency Management is providing guidance regarding the CRF school district reimbursement program.

Is the cost of printing curriculum packets a reimbursable COVID-related expense?

According to TEA’s CARES Act Funding and Expense Reimbursement FAQ (5/28/20), it is reimbursable, as long as the expenses are supplemental and meet the following three requirements:

  • Have been incurred due to COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Were not accounted for in the most recently approved budget as of March 27, 2020; and
  • Were incurred from March 1, 2020, through May 20, 2020. Printing curriculum packets for instructional continuity is also an allowable expense under the ESSER formula grant.

Are there unallowable costs under the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CARES Act)?

Payroll expenses for general district employees are unallowable. However, payroll costs of district staff or faculty responsible for developing online learning capabilities necessary to continue educational instruction in response to COVID-19-related school closures may be allowable.