January 14, 2022: Take our Omicron survey; New TEA guidelines released; Get ready to vote; Cy-Fair trustee blasted for racial remarks
Publish Date: January 14, 2022 10:49 am Author: Texas AFT
Omicron is making a hard job even harder
We know how hard Texas school employees work every day, especially during this pandemic. And no matter what the talking heads might say, we know everyone deserves to feel safe and healthy in their school.
That’s why we’re asking you to take the Omicron survey—to hear what’s happening in your school and your district. The survey takes just minutes to complete. Your response will cut through the noise from people who’ve never stepped foot in a classroom.
Let’s not let public school employees be the scapegoats for irresponsible leaders. Take a few minutes now to take the survey so we can speak with a collective voice.
New TEA COVID-19 Public Health guidance released, possibly impacting return times for quarantining staff
On January 7, the Texas Education Agency announced new public health guidance in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. TEA’s guidance impacts various aspects of public education’s operations for educators and staff, such as on-campus instruction and UIL extracurricular activities.
For educators who test positive for COVID-19, who are showing symptoms of the virus, or who have had close contacts with infected persons, the updated public health guidance suggests that they can return to work following five days of isolation on the following conditions:
• If symptomatic, at least five days have passed since symptom onset, and fever free, and other symptoms have improved. (Fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever suppressing medications. Fever is a temperature of 100° Fahrenheit—37.8° Celsius—or higher.)
• For those with no symptoms, at least five days after the day they tested positive.
These guidelines apply to all school employees. The guidance also outlines that teachers and staff who believe they were exposed to the virus need not isolate or quarantine if they are:
• Age 18 or older and have received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters and additional primary shots for some immunocompromised people.
• Confirmed COVID-19 positive within the last 90 days and has fully recovered.
If you are being called back from isolation after five days but still have a fever or other significant symptoms, call your union immediately to ensure your district is not violating protocols.
In particular, schools are not required to conduct COVID-19 investigations (e.g., contract tracing) for students who have been exposed to the virus. However, schools do have jurisdiction to comply with local public health authorities who wish to investigate individual exposures and potential outbreaks of the virus in schools. The new guidelines also give parents the liberty to keep their children for the stated five-day isolation period if they feel as though their child was exposed to the virus at school, whether they are symptomatic or not. Schools may also have the ability to deliver distance learning options for students who are isolated following exposure to the virus. TEA updated its public health guidelines to follow CDC recommendations released in late December.
Texas AFT announces first round of primary endorsements
Texas AFT is proud to make its first round of endorsements for State House, State Senate, and State Board of Education for the March 1 primaries. We are particularly proud of the AFT member activists that are standing up for their communities by running for office. Public education is at a crossroads and educators are strained almost to the breaking point by COVID-19, the economy, and threats to our very democracy.
Let’s get Texans registered to vote: Join our Political Bootcamp to see how you can help!
In 2022, Texas AFT has an initiative to ensure that all our members are registered to vote. Our members have the power to change the trajectory of elections by becoming registered voters and going to the polls and voting. Throughout the year, we’re creating opportunities to engage our members and create awareness on issues that matter to them in local communities.
On Monday, January 24 at 5 p.m., we’re hosting a Political Bootcamp to enhance our voter registration outreach to members. Let’s take action and help members know they have power and build our collective power by voting.
AFT continues push for national voting rights legislation
AFT has been a proponent of passing vital pieces of legislation that enhance voting accessibility and protect voting rights—including H.R. 5746, which combines provisions from the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Although deadlock due to opposition from the U.S. Senate Republicans has stalled voting-rights legislation, possible changes to Senate filibuster rules could bring bills to the floor for a vote.
This legislation is in response in large part to state voter suppression laws. In 2021 alone, 19 states (including Texas) enacted 34 new laws that restrict access to the ballot box, and more are under consideration today. As AFT President Randi Weingarten notes in a letter to members of the U.S. House: “The late Rep. John Lewis once said, ‘The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in our democracy.’ Protecting our democratic principles is patriotic, not partisan. Our responsibility as citizens is not just to vote; it is to stand up so that everyone who is eligible can vote and every vote is counted.”
Cy-Fair ISD teachers, leaders call for the resignation of district trustee after controversial remarks about Black teachers
A growing number of parents, teachers, and community leaders in Cy-Fair and across the greater Houston area are calling for the resignation of Cy-Fair ISD Trustee Scott Henry after Henry made racist remarks about Black teachers during a school board work session Monday. During the meeting, which was scheduled to discuss Cy-Fair ISDs equity audit, Henry insinuated that school dropout rates were correlated to the percentage of Black teachers in the district, saying: “Cy-Fair has what? 13% Black teachers? Houston ISD is 36%. Their dropout rate is 4%. I don’t want to be 4%. I don’t want to be HISD. I want to be a shining example. I want to be the district standard.”
The many voices calling on Henry to resign include Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, State Rep. Penny Morales, NAACP Houston Branch President Dr. James Dixon, and Harris County Democratic Party Chair Odus Evbagharu, among many others. Cy-Fair AFT President Nikki Cowart released a statement in which she called Henry’s remarks “ignorant and appalling” and insisted that Henry should resign immediately. Cy-Fair AFT teachers have been on the frontlines in the wake of Henry’s controversial remarks. Several members came out to protest against Henry at a Cy-Fair ISD school board meeting this Thursday.
After the meeting, Henry denied accusations of racism and claimed that his words were being twisted. Henry has a history of racially insensitive remarks. On Twitter this past summer, Henry tweeted, “Bring back the segregation we had in the 60s,” in response to a news report about vaccine passports. Henry was elected this past November and has no previous experience in elected office. He campaigned heavily against Critical Race Theory (CRT), which he claimed is sweeping the nation, even though there is no evidence of CRT being taught in Texas public schools. “He ran his campaign for trustee on the notion that we shouldn’t ever be talking about racism in schools. And yet, he’s happy to exemplify racist opinions from the dais of a school board meeting,” Cowart said in her statement.