AUSTIN, Texas -Superintendents from school districts affected by Hurricane Harvey met with lawmakers Thursday to tell tales of students displaced and campuses destroyed.
"All of our maintenance buildings, all of our bus barns, everything has substantial damage," said Port Aransas ISD Superintendent Sharon McKinney.
McKinney brought photo sheets for lawmakers on Thursday, showing the destruction Hurricane Harvey dealt to her schools.
"Our hopes are to be back in the elementary and high school in January. Middle school, maybe not until the beginning of next year," McKinney said.
But getting those buildings back into shape is going to take money.
"I think this is going to be a huge economic impact," said Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Kingwood.
State officials are anticipating education expenses will be the biggest hurricane-related hit to the state budget.
"We have to fix these problems today, not in 2019. We have to deal with these problems right now and figure out how we're going to pay for these as we go forward," Huberty said.
While FEMA and insurance funds will be covering the majority of costs, school districts will still be on the hook for the remaining expenses. Estimates from the Texas Education Agency reveal there could be a $1.6 billion tab for the state.
With homes destroyed, many families also had to move because of the storm. A $400 million plan has been put in place so schools aren't penalized for losing students for the next year, and schools suddenly finding themselves with more students will receive expedited funding.
"Money follows the kid in Texas, so that would be money that they're legally entitled to," said Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath.
And while costs mount, there's also a worry that schools could be seeing significantly less property tax revenue, as homeowners balk at paying taxes for flooded homes they can no longer live in.
"Theoretically, we're talking about billions and billions of nonpayment in taxes,” Huberty said.
Since property taxes are the main funding source for Texas public schools, this could have a significant impact on the amount of money that schools receive. The state will be helping out with aid in the short term; however property, values will take time to rebound.
But as lawmakers grapple with how to pay for it all, educators like McKinney are just looking forward to teaching students once again.
"Once we get our kids back and our teachers back teaching kids every day, we're going to make a full recovery sooner than later," McKinney said.