You can find all news, updates and resources addressing COVID-19 here on our website.
TEA Leaves Texas Teachers Wondering
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) was expected to announce formal health and safety guidance for reopening this week. Instead, school administrators, educators, and parents were left wondering about how schools would be reopening in the fall.
In a conference call with school superintendents, Education Commissioner Mike Morath indicated that the health and safety guidelines were still in draft, and the changing public health situation made it difficult to provide final guidance for on-campus instruction.
Decisions about reopening school buildings for in-school learning can’t be made in a vacuum. Those in power should listen to health professionals as well as educators and key members of the community across Texas because that’s the best course for students, educators and school staff. The AFT five-point plan includes recommendations for social distancing, testing, tracing and isolating cases, using masks and other PPE to avoid spreading the virus.
Texas AFT tells Gov. Abbott to give educators more time
This week Texas AFT sent an open letter to Governor Greg Abbott telling him to waive the statutory requirement for a teacher under a term contract to file a written resignation with the board of trustees no later than the 45th day before the first day of instruction of the following year to avoid penalty.
That 45th day before the first day of class is rapidly approaching, and it is vital that educators are given the opportunity to consider their own safety and the safety of their families before making the decision whether it is appropriate for them to return to teaching.
The Texas Education Agency has again delayed the release of public health guidance for school districts this fall, and we do not have a date certain for its release. The release of the guidance is necessary for educators to determine their agreement to future employment, considering the major changes in how instruction will be delivered and the many unknown factors.
Texas AFT is asking for your help. Write to Governor Abbott to ask him to waive Texas education regulations so that teachers have more time to consider their employment contract and whether continuing to work is the appropriate decision for them and their family.
Tell Abbott to pause that deadline by clicking here.
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 require schools to replace their typical attendance measurement policies with alternative policies to accommodate remote learning. For schools that opt for Remote Synchronous Instruction, in which students meet with teachers remotely at a specified time for two-way virtual instruction, attendance will be recorded daily at a locally selected time in basically the same manner by which teachers typically take attendance. Students must be connected to their class meeting on their electronic devices or over the phone for their attendance to be counted.
For schools that opt for Remote Asynchronous Instruction, in which students do not directly engage with teachers for instruction but instead learn from pre-recorded video lessons or set tasks outlined by the teacher, students will earn daily attendance through daily engagement measures. The approved engagement methods are as follows: daily progress in the Learning Management System (LMS), as defined in the approved learning plan; daily progress via teacher-student interactions, as defined in the approved learning plan; or completion/Turn-in of assignments from student to teacher (potentially via email, online, or mail). No matter what method of engagement schools choose, the instructional method must address the required curriculum as outlined by the TEA. This new flexibility will not provide state funding for a remote synchronous method for Pre-K through 2nd grade.
For a full outline of the TEA’s new plan for measuring attendance, click here.
TEA announces PPE distribution, makes usage of PPE optional
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. The new numbers show a marginal increase in the total number of masks as compared to the original amounts the TEA had planned to acquire. The PPE was allotted to districts on a per pupil basis.
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 Mike Morath and the TEA will follow Governor Greg Abbott’s largely hands-off approach to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
Texas AFT Retiree Plus Hosts first Virtual Retiree Summit
Texas AFT Retirees Plus hosted its first Virtual Retiree Summit this week bringing together retirees from across the state to share what they have accomplished in their first two years. Attendees heard from advocates on issues impacting retirees including healthcare, pensions, and the legislative outlook for next session.
The last legislature saw several wins for retirees, including a 13th check and $231 million dollars to TRS for healthcare premiums through 2021. Texas AFT outlined some of the challenges that retirees should be ready for in the upcoming session in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. Much of the focus will be on making sure the Texas legislature doesn’t undo the good work that has been done.
However, there is also an opportunity this year to elect lawmakers who will be champions for retirees in the future. Retirees can amplify their voices and advocate on key issues nationally and at the state level. Summit participants encouraged retirees to share their stories on why their pensions matter and to continue making sure their voices are heard at the Capitol.
Despite the difficulties social distancing imposes, retirees are still finding ways to organize, for example, calling legislators to support the HEROES Act and helping to get out the vote for candidates that will fight to protect pensions next session.
Cheryl Anderson, Texas AFT Retiree Plus Chairwoman, said, “We are advocating for retiree issues every day and it is so exciting to see so many retirees wanting to get involved. There is a lot of potential here!”
This was the first in a series of Retiree Summits that will be held throughout the year to keep retirees informed and ready to take action. The next Retiree Summit is currently being planned for the fall on education funding and elections.
In case you missed it Thursday, you can watch the entire summit by clicking here.
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.