July 10: Webinar recording links; Last chance to vote early; Our take on TEA being ‘reckless’

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Texas AFT calls TEA reopening Guidelines what they are: ‘reckless’

Webinar outlines issues around ADA/FMLA, and more in face of pandemic

The Texas Education Agency on Tuesday released its “SY 20-21 Public Health Planning Guidance”—a combination of rules and recommendations for returning to campuses. Our response was quick and assertive:

“TEA leadership is acting intentionally or recklessly with gross negligence by issuing guidance that does not take into account the fact that much of Texas is experiencing substantial community spread,” said Zeph Capo, Texas AFT president. “Under such circumstances, the CDC recommends extended school dismissals. Our students and teachers deserve a state agency that places their safety above all else.”

The “reckless” and “gross negligence” was TEA’s continuing assertion that returning to campuses while Texas is experiencing record numbers of infections and hospitalizations will be “safe.” However, you should be educated on the entirety of the document so you can address issues locally, and we’ve boiled down some key items to pay attention to.

Two days later, Texas AFT Attorney Martha Owen joined our president, Zeph Capo, staff members, and thousands of viewers yesterday for a webinar looking at issues to consider for using the Americans with Disability Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and retirement when considering options for returning to campuses for the school year.

The presentation also included a good summary of Texas AFT’s stance on reopening issues, along with answers to questions on the 45-day rule for resigning, waivers you may be asked to sign, and more—as well as how to contact our union for assistance.

Missed it? You can find recordings and accompanying documents here. In addition to the issues covered in the webinar, we will be combing through questions posed in comments and posting as many responses as possible.





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Early voting for Primary Runoff ends today; here’s why your vote matters

Educators are scared in Texas. Our state leaders, through profound errors in judgment, have failed us, and the coronavirus pandemic is out of control. Texas breaks records almost every day for new cases and deaths. And yet, Governor Abbott and President Trump demand schools open. We need new leadership in Austin and in Washington, but those elections are in the future, so what can we do today?

We can vote. Don a mask, take some hand sanitizer, and go vote during early voting through July 10 for the July 14 runoff elections. Granted, we can’t vote out Abbott or Trump today, but we can make choices today that will affect our future as educators.

Do you want a school privatization-supporting Senator from the Rio Grande Valley in SD27 or an upstart constitutional lawyer like Sara Stapleton Barrera? In Austin, do you prefer a battle-tested public-school champion like Rep. Eddie Rodriguez in SD14, or a county judge endorsed by Charter Schools Now? In Dallas, we have a labor movement progressive in Rep. Lorraine Birabil to stand up for in HD100. In Houston, a daughter of educators, Akilah Bacy, offers us a glimpse of a better future in HD138; and two public school advocates in Penny Morales Shaw (HD148) and Jerry Davis (HD142) working to send home establishment politicians who won’t listen to teachers.

We have an economy on the brink and a yawning state budget gap in front of us, a pandemic spiraling out of control, and reckless guidelines for reopening schools. Sometimes the problems seem insurmountable, but we can change this story with our vote. Don’t let fear and uncertainty stop you from going to the voting booth. We educate. We advocate. We vote (and we wear a mask while doing it)!

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We don’t always agree with superintendents, but when we do, it’s time to listen…

The Texas School Alliance (TSA) and Texas Urban Council of Superintendents (TUC) have joined efforts in writing a letter to Gov. Abbott addressing the concern of reopening schools in the fall. Fearing a possible reduction in funding due to likely lower attendance rates this year, school districts face uncertainty as they attempt to set up their budget necessary to handle the crisis.

The letter requests: 1) the Commissioner of Education waive student attendance requirements for the following school year now that conditions are significantly worse than they were in the spring when schools first closed; 2) setting a floor for average daily attendance (ADA) for the next year, meaning that no district would need to think of reducing staff or other budgets during a critical time that students and families need the most support, and; 3) allow for districts to be flexible in designing their instructional systems that meet the needs of families and staff during these worsening conditions. Some districts might be able to hold in-person classes, but for our most vulnerable districts where the virus is spreading at greater rates, online learning might be the only safe option.

These are the necessary steps to take to ensure the health and safety of all students without districts fearing the loss of much needed funding. Countless educators, school staff, and now superintendents have come together to express their concerns. We don’t always agree with superintendents, but when we do, it’s time for the governor to listen.


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Current Campaigns:

Gov. Greg Abbott: Pump the brakes on opening schools!
Greg Abbott must pump the brakes on opening schools. School districts need more flexibility and time to make decisions alongside its most important stakeholders: parents and educators. Send your online letter now!


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Texas American Federation of Teachers represents more than 65,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.6-million-member American Federation of Teachers.