Struggling after Harvey, Texas schools plead for relief from state


School districts affected by Harvey have reported millions of dollars in damage.

The Texas Education Agency expects $1.6 billion in Harvey-related costs.

Officials from more than a dozen school districts devastated by Hurricane Harvey pleaded with state lawmakers on Thursday for some relief as the districts slowly recover.

Among the most common requests made to the Texas House Public Education Committee was for more money in anticipation of tax revenue loss; more money to help educate an increasing number of children without permanent homes; and more pressure on the federal government to remove barriers to obtaining federal disaster money and to provide continued funding for free lunches for all students.

“Our families are ready to be back and our community has said whatever you have to do … get your schools open,” said Sharon McKinney, superintendent of the Port Aransas school district, which has a $6.7 million annual budget but experienced $10 million to $12 million in damage. “It really will be the first step and the most important step to our recovery as a community.”

READ: In South Texas, students await return to hurricane-ravaged schools

Port Aransas and Aransas Pass school districts are the only two school districts left in the state that haven’t reopened since Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Gulf Coast. Students will return to school in those districts on Monday.

Texas education Commissioner Mike Morath said on Thursday education will be among the biggest Harvey-related costs to the state. The Texas Education Agency estimates spending an additional $1.6 billion over the next two years.

Because school districts are funded based on student enrollment, about $400 million of Harvey costs will go toward keeping revenue the same for school districts who lose students due to the storm.

School districts who gained students due the storm also will receive additional money but that’s already accounted for in the budget.

The state also likely will miss $974 million in foregone recapture payments from property-wealthy districts such as Port Aransas and Aransas County. Property-wealthy school districts typically make recapture payments to the state to help support property-poor school districts. However, state law permits school districts affected by natural disasters to deduct from recapture payments the amount of money spent on disaster recovery not covered by insurance or the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

TEA also is expected to spend an additional $266 million over the next two years to help school districts educate more students who have become low-income because of the storm.

School district officials on Thursday urged TEA to push the federal government to continue free lunches for students in school districts affected by the hurricane through the end of the semester if not longer.

“That has been the best thing that’s ever happened to us — to be able to not have to tell a kid or tell a parent, ‘Hey, you’re behind in your lunch payments,’ when they’re just happy they have enough clothes to be able to wear,” said Troy Mircovich, superintendent of the Ingleside school district.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Texas News & Politics

JUST IN: SWAT team responding to barricaded person in North Austin, police say
JUST IN: SWAT team responding to barricaded person in North Austin, police say

A person is barricaded at a location in North Austin and an Austin police SWAT team is responding, officials said Monday night. Police reported the incident at the 600 block of Barwood Park about 11:20 p.m. Police are urging people to avoid the area. This is a developing story; check back for details.
Man shot, seriously injured on Manor Road
Man shot, seriously injured on Manor Road

A man was shot and seriously injured on Manor Road on Monday night, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said. Medics responded to Manor Road and Rogge Lane at 8:34 p.m. and found a man, estimated to be in his 20s, with a gunshot wound, EMS officials said. He was taken to Dell Seton Medical Center with serious, potentially life-threatening injuries,...
Austin bombings: Latest explosion has experts tweaking bomber profile
Austin bombings: Latest explosion has experts tweaking bomber profile

Law enforcement and others seeking clues into the mind of what now appears to be a serial bomber say the latest explosive incident on Sunday night, the city’s fourth over 17 days, provided more trail crumbs than definitive signposts pointing toward a potential suspect. Austin interim Police Chief Brian Manley has said preliminary indications...
UT Faculty Council objects to removal of books in Fine Arts Library
UT Faculty Council objects to removal of books in Fine Arts Library

Amid student and faculty protests against any consideration of plans to take more books and materials from the University of Texas’ Fine Arts Library, the UT Faculty Council on Monday unanimously adopted a resolution objecting to further removal. In an unusually packed faculty council meeting with more than 200 in attendance, various faculty...
4th Austin bomb more sophisticated than others, leaves city on edge
4th Austin bomb more sophisticated than others, leaves city on edge

The suspected serial bomber terrorizing Austin is more sophisticated than originally believed, but the motive behind the attacks remains a mystery, officials said Monday after a Sunday night explosion that wounded two men in Southwest Austin. The latest incident, the fourth attack in 17 days, signaled to law enforcement that the bomber or bombers have...
More Stories