- The Texas Legislature has allocated $55 million to fund the Texas Education Agency’s efforts to fight rising cases of ransomware and malicious cyber activity impacting school districts across the state.
- Texas’ K-12 Cybersecurity Initiative aims to provide "immediate solutions” to protect districts from the ongoing threat of cyberattacks, according to TEA. Some priority will go to rural districts, which are easier targets for cyber criminals because they often have fewer resources to devote to cybersecurity or to hire a related specialist.
- School districts will have access to cybersecurity technical assistance through the state’s 20 regional Education Service Centers. However, free third-party cybersecurity services will be available on a first-come, first served basis.
Texas is not the only state ramping up efforts to counter cyber threats against K-12 schools as they continue to face vulnerabilities.
Minnesota's recently approved budget features one-time funding of $24.3 million in grants for school districts or charter schools to address cybersecurity needs. This move came just after a ransomware gang targeted Minneapolis Public Schools in February.
A global data breach of the file transfer software platform, MOVEit, has slowly revealed to claim victims in the education sector, including the Minnesota Department of Education and New York City Public Schools. TIAA, a major teachers’ retirement fund, is also among the latest to fall victim to this breach. Additionally, the California State Teacher’s Retirement System announced its data was impacted by the MOVEit cyberattack.
But other states have tried to curb these threats to K-12 organizations, like Alabama’s approval of a measure in 2022 when it allocated over $16 million for districts to hire district technology coordinators. That state funding provided grants that could help improve school cybersecurity.
Under the Texas initiative, small and midsized districts are more likely to receive free endpoint detection and response subscriptions through the end of the 2024-25 school year. Those services can investigate, contain and help eliminate a cyber threat before it spreads.
Within the same time frame, a pilot group of districts and Education Service Centers will receive free network detection and response hardware and software, which can also help spot suspicious activity.
The Texas K funding will be available for district use from Sept. 1, 2023, through Aug. 31, 2025.
While K-12 technology experts applaud these efforts, they continue to call for for more support, especially at the federal level. In March, the White House released its National Cybersecurity Strategy, which aims to lay a foundation for much-needed upgrades to help school districts combat cyber threats nationwide. The Enhancing K-12 Cybersecurity Act, a bipartisan and bicameral bill introduced in Congress in April, would more specifically target funding to improve school cybersecurity across the country.