School districts affected by Hurricane Harvey ask lawmakers for help

The basketball facility for Rockport High School is exposed to the outside after it lost part of its roof and walls from Hurricane Harvey, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in Rockport, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
The basketball facility for Rockport High School is exposed to the outside after it lost part of its roof and walls from Hurricane Harvey, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in Rockport, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Several school districts affected by Hurricane Harvey pleaded with lawmakers to get additional help during a Texas House Public Education Committee meeting Thursday.

Fort Bend ISD Superintendent Charles Dupre said in a few short days as Harvey slammed into Texas, their district “experienced more than $16 million in damage and loss.”

“Fort Bend not only experienced significant damage to our schools and facilities, but many of our staff, students and families were displaced, either because their homes were damaged by flood and rain waters or mandatory evacuations,” Dupre said.

Several superintendents asked lawmakers to seek ways where districts won’t have to face additional costs to get back on track.

The basketball facility for Rockport High School is exposed to the outside after it lost part of its roof and walls from Hurricane Harvey, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in Rockport, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
The basketball facility for Rockport High School is exposed to the outside after it lost part of its roof and walls from Hurricane Harvey, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in Rockport, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

“When asked how the state can assist school districts impacted by Harvey, I recommend that the state provide a funding mechanism to hold harmless districts from expenditures over and above what insurance and FEMA will not cover,” Dupre said.

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath said there are more than 900 campuses where districts will be dealing with costs associated with damage from the storm. However, a final figure hasn’t been determined.

Morath also noted schools are facing additional financial strain from needed counseling services and transportation.

He also said the TEA is helping four districts right now who need extra resources and funding as they take in displaced students.

“What we’ve done is issued guidance to districts that would allow them, if they had a large number of displaced students that came in, they can apply and we can accelerate that cash flow,” Morath said. “That’s funding that the state would’ve otherwise paid later, so you’ll notice that has no net fiscal cost to the state.”

Morath said they’ve also issued a memo letting districts know they will not be held responsible for enrollment losses, “based upon a projection of what their enrollment would’ve been absent Harvey, so that they wouldn’t have to lay off staff and other things as a result of the storm, because otherwise, they would’ve lost funds for that.”

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