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Apollo 13 and Texas Public Education

“With all due respect, we need to get back to work. We need to continue to work together on solutions and continue to do so in the bi-partisan tradition of the Texas Legislature. If we do that, I believe this could be our finest hour.”

- Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty

Invoking the movie Apollo 13, when a NASA director stated "This could be the worst disaster NASA has ever experienced" and Gene Kranz at mission control responded, "With all due respect sir, I believe this could be our finest hour", Chairman Huberty took a clear shot this week at anyone who doubted the Texas Legislature's resolve to put aside partisanship and solve education funding issues.

But after the major public education funding overhaul last session, serious questions linger about just exactly how public education will be funded moving forward with the state in a fiscal freefall after COVID and the oil surplus that has driven prices down.

This week, we will explore the public education recovery mechanisms that have been introduced at the federal level as well as how other states have reacted so far during their legislative sessions.


Congressional Democrats introduced their latest version of the HEROES Act, and it included several impactful provisions for public education across the country. Some of the most important include:

  • $90 billion in grants to states to fund primary and secondary education. This bill creates a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund for the purpose of providing for costs associated with making up lost instructional time, providing mental health support, purchasing education technology, and professional development related to distance learning services. These broad uses allow the states to use the appropriated money in the best way they see fit.

  • Defines “Distance Learning” in statute - This amendment provides better clarity to the legal definition of distance learning and should make it easier for schools to implement distance learning programs.

  • $1.5billion for public schools and libraries to provide broadband access through wifi hotspots and connected devices.

*For EdTech and education services companies in Texas, contact us to see how your services might be eligible for reimbursement or payment through this new pool of federal money.

Although this is just a preliminary version of the HEROES Act, it provides insight into the priorities of Congressional Democrats. Already, Republican members have expressed concerns regarding several of the provisions, as well as the associated costs of some of the services. As the bill makes its way through the process, Education spending stands to gain a substantial increase in federal funding.

Federal Guidelines for Schools

The US Department of Education has compiled a list of best practices and guidance for schools related to COVID-19 response. Included are updates on FERPA, waivers for most Federal requirements, and guidance for adult education programs. As the needs of students continue to evolve due to COVID-19, maintaining awareness of changing Federal regulations will increase in importance.

COVID-19 Education Response in Other States

NCSL has created a database of education-related bills filed in other states related to the education demands of COVID-19. There is a clear pattern developing across states regarding their response to COVID-19. Most states have passed legislation related to:

  • Financial support for schools

  • Increase in distance learning and EdTech spending

  • Waivers for standardized testing

  • Modifications to instructional time requirements

Once the Texas Legislature meets in January, we’ll see a flurry of bills that address these issues. For education-based companies that provide services and products for schools, now would be the time to begin approaching decision-makers.

Quick Links Texas 2036 provides a list of the areas of need exposed by COVID-19 to the state’s education system.

The Brookings Institute looks at the Top 10 risks and opportunities provided by distance learning. (It’s here to stay)

Entrepreneur Magazine analyzes the impact of COVID-19 on EdTech’s future. Has EdTech met the challenges of COVID-19?

More than half of the $8 billion of global investment in EdTech companies in 2018 was for Chinese based companies, with 20% for US-based services. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, US EdTech companies stand to benefit from an increase in capital.

©2020 by Salient Strategies