Another Local School District Cutting Jobs

Arlington ISD
Arlington ISD | Image by NBC 5 DFW

Arlington ISD is poised to cut 275 jobs as the expiration of COVID lockdown-era relief funds looms.

The nearly 300 soon-to-be eliminated positions have been subsidized through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, a taxpayer-funded program that assisted schools during the lockdowns, reported The Texan.

Public school systems in Texas received $17.3 billion in taxpayer dollars through three funding packages: ESSER I, ESSER II, and ESSER III. Arlington ISD received $210 million in ESSER funds, of which $135 million were ESSER III funds.

One of the requirements for the funds was that they had to be spent by the program end date — ESSER III’s end date is September 30, 2024 — or any remaining taxpayer money would have to be returned to the federal government. The district has approximately 20% of its ESSER III funds remaining, which amounts to roughly $27 million.

Some of the positions Arlington ISD will be eliminating relate to classroom support, mental health resources, and tutoring.

“The ESSER III grant has been instrumental in our ability to respond effectively to the challenges posed by the pandemic,” said Matt Smith, Arlington ISD superintendent, in a press release about the layoffs, per The Texan. “As we navigate this transition, our priority remains ensuring the continuity of education and the well-being of our students and staff. We are committed to maintaining essential services and educational standards.”

“ESSER III funding was always intended to be a short-term grant to address learning loss caused by COVID-19. Student learning remains our highest priority, and we’ll actively work to align the funds we have to meet that priority. That’s not to say there won’t be challenges. With no adjustments in funding from the State and the loss of ESSER III funds, we will be challenged. But we’ve tackled every challenge related to COVID-19, and this won’t be an exception,” Smith continued.

Complicating matters is the fact that state funding is based on attendance, and Arlington ISD is one of the many local districts facing declining enrollment. The district also has a projected budget deficit of $43.3 million for the next fiscal year and over $1.8 billion in outstanding debt, reported The Texan.

According to the Texas Education Agency’s latest accountability report for the district, only 40% of students during the 2021-2022 school year scored at grade level on their STAAR exams, a slightly lower figure than the 41% logged by Dallas ISD.

The loss of federal spending was also behind recent job cuts at Fort Worth ISD, as reported by The Dallas Express.

Facing a $186 million deficit, Dallas ISD announced it would be cutting 75 central office positions.

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