When the coronavirus pandemic abruptly shuttered schools in March, Austin school leaders scrambled to transition learning online but it quickly became clear that thousands of students without access to the internet and a home computer were being left behind.
District leaders dipped into reserves to spend millions of dollars upgrading technology and getting students WiFi access, laptops and other learning devices. Staff prepared and delivered meals to district families to ensure children remained fed while campuses were closed, and the district purchased masks, gloves, face shields and gallons of hand sanitizer for employees.
The scene played out in school systems across Texas.
As the unexpected costs piled up, the boost in public education funding approved by the Legislature last year proved to be a lifeline. But, as lawmakers prepare to write a new two-year budget amid cost-cutting pressures, school district officials in Austin worry that the hard-fought funding gains will