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News and Updates

The Latest

July 17

TEA updates rules involving leave and resignation

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has published updated information regarding the taking of leave or resignation in light of question that have arisen due to the safety threat the that COVID-19 pandemic presents. The information explains that Texas public school teachers are entitled to up to 80 hours of Emergency Paid Sick Leave (E-PSL) for COVID-19 related reasons such as care for themselves or a child who has contracted the virus and may qualify for Emergency Family Medical Leave (E-FMLA) for school/childcare closure for up to 400 additional hours (10 weeks) if they have been employed for at least 30 days.

The updated information also specifies that if an employee resigns outside of the no-fault resignation window, certain provisions in rule may allow the resignation to occur with no impact on the educator’s certificate.

The full employment matters update is linked here.

June 24

TEA updates their approved methods for measuring attendance in light of COVID-19

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced that they will be adjusting their usual requirements for attendance in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. As school funding is tied to schools’ average daily attendance (ADA), this would provide some stability in funding for schools who face uncertainty in the coming school year. TEA commissioner Mike Morath stated that the adjustment only applies for the 2020-21 school year. 

 The TEA will be requiring schools to replace their typical attendance measurement policies with alternative policies to accommodate remote learning. Schools that opt for Remote Synchronous Instruction (in which students meet with teachers remotely at a specified time for two-way virtual instruction) and schools that opt for Remote Asynchronous Instruction (in which students and teachers do not meet up live) will be given different options for how to take attendance. The different modes of taking attendance are outlined in the TEA’s announcement, linked here.

June 23

TEA updates PPE procurement numbers, Makes PPE usage optional for districts

After first announcing that they will purchase and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE)  for each district, the TEA has updated the amounts of PPE they were planning to procure, increasing the total number of masks the TEA was planning to distribute.

In addition to the updated numbers, the TEA also announced that districts will not be required to use the PPE provided to them and clarified that the PPE is simply an optional resource, signaling that the TEA will follow Governor Greg Abbott’s largely hands-off approach to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

June 19

TEA announces specific PPE allocations to each district
After making the initial announcement earlier this week that it will purchase and distribute personal protective equipment to districts, the TEA has announced the exact planned allotments of PPE to each individual district.

June 12

TEA to provide PPE to districts; reopening guidelines expected next week
The Texas Education Agency announced this week that it will purchase and distribute personal protective equipment to districts in mid-July and early August. See the TEA notice.  The agency also is expected to release reopening guidelines next week.

TEA provides new waivers, guidance on educator certification exams
Due to the COVID-19 social distancing requirements, educator certification testing centers have been closed for extended periods or have been operating at significantly reduced capacity, limiting the ability of educators and educator candidates to complete certification exam requirements necessary to receive certification. To manage the impact of the public health crisis on educator certification and preparation programs, Governor Abbott has suspended certain requirements to provide flexibility for candidates, districts, and educator preparation programs for the 2020-21 school year. See the TEA’s “Intern and Emergency Permit Waiver: Candidates Pursuing Intern Certificates for the 2020-2021 Academic Year.”

May 18

Guidance under governor’s rules on Summer School Instruction
The Texas Education Agency released detailed guidance on operations for summer school, both on-site and virtual. Key in the rules is a provision that district can’t require a student to attend in-person. See more from the Texas Tribune.

Visiting schools during campus closures
The Texas Education Agency released guidance for personnel visiting campuses during school closures.

May 6

The Texas Education Agency yesterday reiterated some existing rules for graduating seniors while also outlining allowable options for graduation ceremonies. District around the state have been struggling to find ways to honor graduates with a mix of ideas around videos, car processions, virtual ceremonies and social distancing in outdoor venues.

The one clear point established by TEA is that no large indoor ceremonies will be allowed. Outdoor ceremonies under the guidelines can occur on or after June 1, with the exception that “between May 15 and May 31, 2020, an outdoor ceremony will be permitted in a rural county that has an attestation as described in the ‘Texans Helping Texans: The Governor’s Report to Open Texas’ (April 27, 2020) that remains in effect 7 days prior to the ceremony.”

April 29

The Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) has put together a helpful FAQ on substitute teachers and their eligibility for unemployment benefits. 

April 17

Texas AFT thanks governor for closing campuses for on-site instruction for the school year
Texas AFT President Zeph Capo sent a letter today to Gov. Greg Abbott thanking him for his order to close all campuses for on-site instruction for the remainder of the school year.

April 16

Texas AFT urges governor to end the school-year for on-site instruction
Texas AFT President Zeph Capo sent a letter today to Gov. Greg Abbott addressing school closure and the governor’s plan for new orders expected tomorrow on the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 9

Petition urges governor to halt all teacher evaluations for the school year
While TEA has allowed districts to submit waivers for approval to halt teacher appraisals or give discretion on which appraisals to complete, we’ve heard from many members and leaders that the evaluation process continues to be a burden and unfair during the pandemic.

Help share our petition to: Petition to Pause Educator Evaluations Amid COVID-19 Pandemic. It is time that Texas take a fair approach for all educators.

April 3, 2020

Families First bill: FAQ on paid leave for taking care of children when a school or daycare is closed
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides emergency paid sick leave and expanded FMLA leave. There are different requirements and levels of pay, depending on the reasons that you are taking the leave. This FAQ explains the benefits and requirements when an employee takes leave to take care of their child when their child’s school or daycare is closed for a COVID-19 related reason.

TEA confirms accountability standards are waived, ‘Not Rated’ proposed for all districts
The Texas Education Agency received approval from the U.S. Department of Education to waive accountability standards for campuses and districts and is proposing that no ratings be given for this year. You may recall that all STAAR testing was cancelled last month. According to guidance released yesterday, TEA states:

“In recognition of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 emergency, TEA is proposing to label all districts and campuses Not Rated: Declared State of Disaster for the 2019-2020 school year. It is important to note that this rating does not break the chain of consecutive years of unacceptable ratings for purposes of accountability interventions and sanctions.”

TEA will take comments on its entire accountability manual beginning on May 1.

‘Apart We Stand Together’ public health campaign unveiled
TEA has released a comprehensive set of materials promoting public health measures for school employee, parents and students, along with a plan for distribution by school districts and other organizations.

March 31, 2020

Gov. orders school closed until at least May 4
Gov. Abbott said Texas schools will remain closed through at least May 4. The Governor also said he is extending the state’s social distancing mandate through the end of April. Despite mounting pressure, Abbott declined to impose a statewide shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order because, he said, taken literally, that would mean people could not leave their homes under any circumstances. He issued a list of essential services that can carry on and essential activities that are permissible. The new order goes into effect April 2 at midnight. Read the full order here.

TEA guidance on Special Education in Texas
TEA has published guidance for districts on how to address special education students. (Updated guidance on April 3)

March 26, 2020

TEA guidance on staffing issues and teacher evaluations
TEA’s guidance addresses important issues around teacher evaluations with substantial discretion given to districts with a waiver process. Certification renewals, however, will be required as normal.

TEA guidance for instructional continuity
TEA has published and Instructional Continuity FAQ that provides foundations for creating instruction for students remotely. (Updated guidance on April 3)

March 25, 2020

Big headlines are coming out of Washington on relief for those impacted by the coronavirus.

IDRA resources for online learning with an emphasis on equity
The Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) has put together resources and webinars for effective remote instruction, with an emphasis on providing equity in instruction for different populations of students.

TEA provides grading guidance
TEA released guidance for district grading, which pretty much says almost everything is at a district’s discretion–although there are a few interesting details, particularly on graduating seniors, GPAs and class rank.

March 23, 2020

Letter to Gov. Abbott requesting further guidance and orders for Texas public schools
Texas AFT, which represents public school employees across the state, continues to hear that some school districts are requiring personnel to report to work in person, despite the executive order closing schools and restricting gatherings to no more than 10 people. More…

Families First assistance for school employees impacted economically by Coronavirus
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, HR 6201, was recently signed into law. The law contains several provisions that will provide meaningful assistance to school district employees. It takes effect April 2, 2020 and will end on December 31, 2020. This summary is tailored to school district employees. More…

TEA coronavirus guidelines for remote instruction paper packet delivery and return
While digital communication for school work is the preferred method for remote instruction, in some instances delivering paper packets and arranging for their return may be the only option. Texas AFT addressed this today in a letter to the governor. However, TEA today offered comprehensive guidance to district for safe delivery and return of materials.

March 20, 2020

U.S. Department of Education signals waivers will be available for cancelling standardized testing
The U.S. Department of Education today announced what was already known–that state’s could seek waivers from federal requirements for testing. (Texas cancelled all STAAR testing this week by order of the governor.) However, a statement today from  U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos with “broad flexibilities for states to cancel testing” in the headline offered a clear indication that waivers would be granted.

“To protect students’ health and safety, a state that deems it necessary should proceed with cancelling its statewide assessments for the 2019-2020 school year,” DeVos wrote. “Since student performance, as measured by assessments, is required to be used in statewide accountability systems, any state that receives a one-year waiver may also receive a waiver from the requirement that this testing data be used in the statewide accountability system due to the national emergency.”

March 19, 2020

Governor Abbott orders closures of all schools, bars, restaurants and other gathering places
Gov. Greg Abbott today ordered the closure of all schools “temporarily” as well as all gatherings of more than 10 people. Many school districts have already extended their breaks by a week or more in response to the Coronavirus outbreaks, but the governor’s action make closure mandatory statewide.

The executive order is in effect from midnight Friday (March 20) to midnight April 3. The prospect the governor extending the order and mandating closure through the school year unknown. The order effectively shuts down many other businesses like bars, restaurants and gyms for the same time period, although takeout service for restaurants is still allowed.

Read the full order here.

TRS closes offices to public, moving to remote counseling sessions
TRS announced the following: To help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and based on the latest recommendations from the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), TRS is moving to remote operations from March 16 through March 30. This means that our offices will be closed to the public, and we will not be offering in-person scheduled or walk-in counseling appointments. Members with previously scheduled counseling appointments can change their appointment to a remote counseling session by calling 1-800-223-8778. If you are unable to meet with a benefit counselor by phone or through video conferencing our counselors will work with you to reschedule your appointment.

Texas House Speaker supports full pay for all school employees during closures
Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen issues a news release today urging districts to provide full pay to all school employees during closures. More…

Feedback needed on the impact of closures on children with disabilities and special medical needs
As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues and many core community institutions close or slow down, the AFT is tracking several different district, state and federal guidelines for schools. There appears to be inconsistent attention to the diverse ways that schools’ decisions impact the unique and dynamic needs of children with disabilities, medically fragile children and children with special health needs.

The AFT Education Issues Department would appreciate your expertise with these students to guide our response. Take our survey here.

March 18, 2020

TEA offer updates confirming STAAR cancellation and outlining impacts
TEA today released further clarification on how districts should handle cancellation of STAAR testing.

Gov. Abbott allows for delays in local elections
In response to the Coronavirus outbreaks, Gov. Greg Abbott Wednesday used his authority to give local jurisdictions the ability to delay their local elections–scheduled currently for May 2–to the general election date of November 3. 

Some districts already hold November school board elections, while others don’t–notably Dallas ISD, which has three seats open for a planned May 2 election. The governor’s proclamation also allows for delays of special elections forward to the November 3 date. We will keep you updated on which districts decide on a delay.

Meanwhile, state and national Democratic and Republican primary runoffs are still set for May 26, but Gov. Abbott said this week that “everything is on the table” for possible changes in dates or even how elections are conducted–such as moving to more mail-in ballots to avoid crowded polling places during the pandemic. The Dallas Morning news has a thorough look at the issues involved.

Read the governor’s proclamation

March 17, 2020

STAAR testing effectively cancelled
On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott used his authority to waive any requirements for STAAR assessments, and he requested that the federal government waive federally mandated requirements. More…

FAQs on legal, pay and workplace issues
Read all the important FAQs on your work in schools, including provisions in law for pay and workplace issues. More…

Open letter to all districts and school employees
Texas AFT has heard from many members about their concerns over pay and forced attendance at work and/or meetings during times of extended closures. 
While we understand that districts must maintain their operations and possibly provide for remote instruction, we also insist that the safety of our students and school employees be the first priority. With CDC recommendations and best practices as a foundation, Texas AFT therefore strongly urges districts to strictly follow these guidelines, and we will act on behalf of our members to see that they are met. More…

Local district employees and volunteers doing heroic work to feed students
We’ve seen amazing stories of our local union members and co-workers keeping food distribution going to students who are relying on assistance for meals each day. Here’s a list of districts that we know are distributing food, along with locations and times, and we’ll be updating the list.

TEA ongoing guidance and resources from TASA
The Texas Education Agency’s main site for guidance to districts and school employees can be found here.  Additionally, our friends at the Texas Association of School Administrators have a comprehensive list of helpful links here.

TRS information on operations and health care
TRS will be doing remote counseling sessions for members instead through on-site visits. See the letter from executive director Brian Guthrie for an update.  TRS also has a page with more information on services, including free Teledoc services, a Nurses Medical line, and free prescription delivery.

Share My Lesson, a great resource for remote instruction and info on Covid-19
Here’s a reminder that has thousands of lesson plans and other curriculum tools to help with remote instruction–including an online Remote Community to share information and best practices and a checklist for distance learning.  The site also has resources on Covid-19.

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