Houston ISD budget: Congresswoman calls for audit of pandemic-era federal funds

U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia is calling on the U.S. Department of Education to audit funding that the Houston Independent School District received from the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"With the undemocratic takeover of HISD by the state of Texas, I have grave concerns about the financial wellbeing of the district. Widespread layoffs have been announced of widely acclaimed and beloved teachers, administrators, and staff members, leading to families protesting outside their neighborhood schools," Rep. Garcia wrote in a letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

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Rep. Garcia is asking for an audit of the supplemental funding that Congress sent to the state for HISD during the pandemic. She is requesting an accounting of the dates Texas received funding, when it was dispersed to HISD, how HISD has spent those funds and how much of those funds are left.

HISD has previously said that the district is being forced to "make some very tough budget decisions for next school year" – including job cuts – because state funding has not increased and pandemic-era federal government funding is no longer available.

This week, staff, students and parents rallied outside of schools after learning that several principals may no longer be with the district and were given the option to resign or be fired. The district said the move was not due to HISD's budget challenges but instead school performance.

RELATED: Parents protest principal ousting, more staff cuts feared

In her letter to Secretary Cardona, Rep. Garcia also asked the U.S. Department of Education to look into the finances of another Texas school district.

"First, recent news stories have reported that Ector ISD had sent state funds to Third Future Schools, a charter school operator, in Colorado. The charter school operator had taken over schools in the district, but there are concerns that state or federal education dollars meant for our public schools were sent to a charter school. I would request that the Department of Education audit Ector ISD to ensure that all payments were appropriate in nature."

RELATED: Texas tax dollars diverted out-of-state to charter schools founded by Mike Miles, report claims

Mike Miles, superintendent of Houston ISD, previously served as CEO of Third Future Schools before Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath appointed him to lead HISD when the state took over the district last summer.

Miles has called Spectrum News’ report alleging that millions of Texas education tax dollars were diverted out-of-state to the charter school network "irresponsibly inaccurate." He has also said that he welcomes a TEA or any other investigation. Click here to read his full statement.

Other state and local leaders have also called for an investigation into the claims.

SUGGESTED: Inquiry sought into Houston ISD Superintendent's charter school ties

Read Rep. Garcia’s full letter below.

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