Stalemate continues on voter suppression bill, session still halted
Full business in the Legislature is still at a halt—although the Senate is advancing bills—after Democratic House members broke quorum and traveled to Washington D.C. to stop voter suppression legislation.
Some 57 Democrats have vowed to stay in Washington or out of the Texas Capitol to stop the primary elections bill, SB 1. Less than two weeks remain in the special session, which is limited to 30 days (although the governor has the sole authority to call as many subsequent special sessions as he desires.)
American Academy of Pediatrics: Everyone should wear masks in schools, vaccinated or not
This past week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated its COVID-19 guidance, now encouraging all students over 2 years old and all school employees to wear masks regardless of their vaccination status. The AAP’s update to their guidance comes as COVID-19 cases have been increasing across the country and in Texas, likely due to the spread of the newer and more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19. For the first time since February, Texas’ coronavirus test positivity rate has exceeded 10%.
Despite this new guidance from the AAP and the increase in coronavirus cases across the state, Gov. Greg Abbott has remained adamant that Texas public schools may not impose mask mandates. Since the beginning of June, all Texas governmental entities, including schools and universities, have been prohibited from requiring masks to be worn.
Not only do the governor’s orders contradict the AAP’s guidance, but they also contradict the recently released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, which recommends that all staff and unvaccinated students over 2 years old wear masks. Currently, no one under 12 years old is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
TEA’s interpretation of charter school oversight legislation could make the bill unenforceable
This past week, Texas AFT submitted comments on rules to implement a law intended to prohibit Texas charter school operators from self-dealing for profit, but a key omission by the TEA in the drafting of these rules could make the bill unenforceable.
Charter operators have been known to profit from their schools by leasing land that is owned by the very same individuals who are in charge of the charter school operations. Charter schools will lease this land at prices above market value to funnel government funds into their own pockets.
SB 1454 allows the commissioner of education to review any real estate transactions that a charter operator makes with any party that is “related” in some way to the charter operator. If any transaction with a “related party” exceeds fair market value or doesn’t benefit the charter school, the commissioner may take action against these charter operators.
TEA’s proposed amendment to implement this bill would not provide the effective oversight that the legislation intends. The proposed amendment fails to define the important term “related-party.” Without a codified definition for this term, the law is practically unenforceable. As passed, SB 1454 explicitly instructs the commissioner of education to define “related-party,” so the commissioner’s failure to do so is a blatant dereliction of his statutory duties.
Texas AFT Legislative Counsel Patty Quinzi submitted comments pointing out this crucial omission in the TEA’s proposed amendment.
Texas AFT defends educators’ due process rights in proposed SBEC rule
On Friday, Texas AFT Legislative Counsel, Patty Quinzi, testified against a new State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) rule, which would remove due process protections for teachers who are wanting to retire or change positions.
The Texas Education code says SBEC can sanction a teacher if they resign less than 45 days before the start of a school year, but the recently passed HB 2519 requires SBEC to consider mitigating factors to a teacher’s resignation and to consider alternatives to sanctions. SBEC staff proposed a rule with automatic minimum sanctions, but during a work session on Thursday, the SBEC requested revisions to the proposed rule to more closely comply with HB 2519.
Quinzi testified to the SBEC on Friday and asked them to review untimely resignations on a case-by-case basis, as intended by HB 2519. The Board requested a letter of legislative intent from the author of HB 2519, Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo), before proposing new rule language at their October meeting.. Click here to view the full clip of Quinzi’s testimony.
New law gives parents more options for having their students repeat a grade
provided new rights for parents making the decision. As TEA notes in a news release:
“Any Texas parent who believes his or her child would benefit from repeating a course or grade now has the right to make this decision, but must act quickly. If parents decide that it is best for their child to repeat a grade or course, they must inform their school in writing before the start of the upcoming school year. The final decision as to whether a student needs to repeat a course or grade in the upcoming school year is now a Texas parent’s to make, though schools can provide input to further inform a parent’s decision…
.This option is especially important to consider for the parents of the nearly 25,000 children in Texas who were eligible for kindergarten in School Year 2020-21, but who did not enroll, as well as for those kindergarteners who had a significantly disrupted school year.” Resources to inform this decision can be found here.
For students in grade 4 and above, this option exists only for the 2021-22 school year, but for Pre-K through grade 3, the option is permanent. More information for parents can be found at texas.gov/parents.
Texas AFT unions in the Valley will hold citizenship clinics in August
Our local unions in the Rio Grande Valley will be co-hosting a citizenship clinic in McAllen on August 28. The “Together We Rise” clinic will help guide permanent residents to full citizenship. Applicants must attend an informational forum before the clinic. Find all the details here.