The Mesquite ISD board of Trustees unanimously passed a resolution Monday asking for the Texas Legislature to allocate overdue federal funding for public schools.
Deputy Superintendent Ángel Rivera wrote a resolution for the Mesquite board meeting regarding the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, ESSER, fund the district has yet to receive from the state.
“Since our last meeting, we’ve become aware of the ESSER funds – the ever-elusive ESSER funds,” Rivera said.
The ESSER Fund was established as part of the Education Stabilization Fund in the CARES Act. State educational agencies were to distribute funds to Texas schools to meet the educational, social and emotional needs of the students during the pandemic.
“This resolution ought to get your blood boiling a little bit,” Gary Bingham, president of the board of trustees said. “The government realizes that education’s in crisis because of the COVID mess, so they funded us to reimburse us for things we already spent and to give us additional funds to get us out of this hole and do the remediation we’re going to have to do. That money was sent to Austin, and Austin is sitting on it, not giving it to the schools and not even guaranteeing that they’re going to give it to us.”
There was concern raised that the state government might supplant the money for a lower amount. However, Superintendent David Vroonland ensured that after lobbying for Mesquite ISD, he’s confident the state would give the district the full funding given by the federal government. He said the delay was the issue, and the reasoning on why the state delayed has to do with a lack of confidence with money allocated for higher education, separate from kindergarten through 12th-grade funding.
“We need to understand when we are going to get the money and how much we are going to get, so we can make appropriate plans for our kids,” Rivera said. “We also need to prepare for summer learning which is right around the corner.”
The ESSER fund came in three waves. ESSER one was supplanted in former President Donald Trump’s administration, and the second wave of ESSER remained with the Texas Legislature.
“Those dollars were allocated I believe back in November,” Vroonland said. “They’re still there.”
President Joe Biden’s administration released additional funding prior to spring break, which also remains with the Texas Legislature.
“Somewhere between ESSER two and ESSER three is over $100 million that we could be allocating for the purpose of recovery now, but we don’t have it now,” Vroonland said. “We also don’t just have $100 million just lying around that we can bank on and, hope some more money comes in. We’ve got to have that money rolling right now.”
Vroonland said other states have already allocated their funds to other schools.
“We know it can be done,” he said. “It’s just a matter of will our governor give it to us. I just encourage any parent out there, anyone interested in supporting recovery to voice it to their representative. I would encourage you guys to do the same, and I support the resolution tonight.”