The scene is regrettably familiar. A hurricane hits the Texas Gulf Coast and, within months, local school officials face state lawmakers to ask for relief for their districts from the state’s education funding and accountability systems.
And then the waiting game begins.
Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 50 inches of rain in some parts of the county, flooding an estimated 20,000 homes. On Monday during a hearing in Houston before the Senate Education Committee, officials described issues with everything from Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursements to upcoming state finance funding problems as they recover from the damage wrought by the storm.
Dealing with the effects of a storm, lawmakers were told, can last for years. For instance, Galveston ISD is still seeking about $17 million in reimbursement money from FEMA from Hurricane Ike-related damages, Galveston ISD Trustee Anthony Brown said.
Hurricane Ike struck in 2008.
“Generations of auditors have seen us through this process,” Brown said. “Our people have retired who understood it. They told us it takes an average of eight years.”
Almost half of Galveston’s fund balance is tied up in the reimbursements it is still expecting from FEMA, Brown said.
While we agree that there should be accountability when it comes to using tax dollars, one would think it would not take nearly a decade to finish the process.
Then there is the state funding method.
As we saw with Hurricane Ike, school districts — which rely on student population as part of the funding method — tend to lose students in the aftermath of a hurricane.
Property values, another factor in school districts’ funding, tend to drop. While already calculated for the current year, districts would experience a loss of funding a year in the future. Then there is the so-called Robin Hood system of funding, in which districts with larger tax bases send money to the state to be doled out to poorer districts.
But these are the same problems that districts faced nearly a decade ago after Hurricane Ike.
And school officials, then as they are now, appealed to the state for help in coping with the restoration.
One would think that if school districts still haven’t fully recovered from Hurricane Ike, something might be wrong with the system in place.
• Dave Mathews