October 16, 2020: Add yourself to record vote numbers; Events for School Safety Week; TEA launches rapid COVID-19 testing pilot

You can find all news, updates and resources addressing COVID-19 here on our website.


School Safety Week: Our unions are using their collective voices to call for safety on campuses

School safety Week Forum poster with Safety First written on chalkboard

To kick off School Safety Week our unions across the state are staging a variety of events to send a direct message to our state and national officials that not enough is being done to keep our students and school employees safe on campuses during the pandemic.

The Houston Federation of Teachers (with Aldine AFT participating), Northeast Houston AFT, and Fort Bend AFT are holding Car Caravans as moving rallies to get the message out with honks and signs indicating the frustration and anger school employees feel about their return to on-campus instruction. Houston Federation of Teachers members will also drop off cards and signs with questions/concerns at the administration building. In the Rio Grande Valley, McAllen AFT will hold a Car Caravan and La Joya AFT is hosting a virtual event on safety for its members.

The Houston Federation of Teachers Caravan is making its last stop an early voting location, and all our unions will be encouraging members to vote early. “While we certainly are focused on making sure individual school districts make the right decisions for reopenings and safety protocols on our campuses, our key objections are directed at Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Education Commissioner Mike Morath,” said Zeph Capo, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers and Texas AFT. “Our current policies do not protect Texans. The only way you can protect yourselves and your family is to vote them and their friends out of office.”

This coming Wednesday, October 21 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Texas AFT will host a School Safety Week Forum on Facebook Live with panelists speaking on what’s needed to make our campuses safer. (RSVP here to get reminders and updates.) Stay tuned to our Facebook page for more ways to speak out next week!

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Early voting records being set across the state: It’s your turn to add to the numbers!

Early voting has started and is setting records. More than 1 million Texans have already voted.Front page of Statesman newspaper nothing historic voting levels Educators like you are voting in droves. But, this election is bigger than Biden and Trump. It’s about local issues like whether your local school has a nurse on campus during a pandemic. It’s about whether you are forced back to campus as hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases rise. We need better leadership. We need to elect pro-public education candidates that will support common-sense reforms and our health and safety. Today we can hold failed leaders accountable from the State House to the White House. Take a mask, hand sanitizer, and go vote for a better Texas. Find a polling location and your pro-public education slate now!

  • Visit our Election 2020 page for all the information you need on voting and our endorsements.

 

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TEA kicks off pilot program for COVID-19 testing in eight districts, while a university offers free testing for educators in a massive study launching in Texas

Flier Image for CARES study with Masked Educators and tests
Two weeks ago the federal government announced it would be shipping millions of COVID-19 rapid tests to states with a primary goal of using them for school districts. At the time it was unsure how many Texas would get and how they would be used. On Wednesday Gov. Greg Abbot, the Texas Education Agency, and the Texas Division of Emergency Management announced the “COVID-19 Rapid Testing Pilot Program for Texas School systems.” The pilot program will allow school districts to have COVID-19 testing available for district employees and students, who have received permission from their family.

Questions remain regarding the validity of rapid antigen COVID-19 testing. Rapid testing delivers results in 15 minutes, although they are known to have a higher percentage of false negatives. Additionally, the U.S Food and Drug Administration says that “antigen tests are more likely to miss an active coronavirus infection compared to molecular tests.”

According to news reports, TEA is letting the districts decide how to use the tests and is making them responsible for administering the tests. Without standards or set plans for how tests will be used, it’s uncertain how this pilot will result in something that other districts can model. TEA also said it is accepting applications from other districts and private schools for participating in the program. The eight pilot schools districts are: Bob Hope School in Port Arthur, Fabens Independent School District, Grace Community School in Tyler, Granger Independent School District, Lampasas Independent School District, Longview Independent School District, Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District, and Ysleta Independent School District.

Meanwhile, if you’d like an ongoing snapshot of possible past COVID-19 infection for yourself, a Texas university is inviting educators to participate in a massive testing study.

The Texas Coronavirus Antibody Response Survey (Texas CARES) led by the UTHealth School of Public Health and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) will conduct about 31,500 antibody tests for the Texas education workforce, in addition to thousands more for other populations. The antibody tests—which are designed to detect a past infection or one that has been present for a significant amount of time—are administered free of charge, and participants will receive their individual results after each sample is taken. Participation is voluntary and will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis, and all results are completely confidential. For more information about participating in the study see the Texas CARES site.

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Senate Education Committee hears recommendations on streamlining trainings, Higher Ed Committee meets

Texas Senate Education Committee meeting

On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee met to hear invited testimony about adult education and teacher workforce issues related to continuing education and professional development.

The committee heard from members of the Teacher Workgroup, an effort by the Lt. Governor’s office that brings together a broad array of stakeholders, including Texas AFT, to streamline training. The group created a list of recommendations for continuing education reform which would make trainings less redundant, less time consuming, and more meaningful to allow for teachers to seek other professional development opportunities to progress their careers. Included in the recommendations is a clearinghouse that would facilitate a clearer understanding of what is required of educators and the frequency of each requirement.

The group will release the final list of recommended changes in November. The Senate Education Committee expects to hold one more interim hearing before the start of the session, however, no subject matter or date has been announced.

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Cy-Fair Town Hall showcases four great candidates for the Texas House

 

Nikki Coward Cy-Fair AFT president on Zoom meeting This week Cy-Fair AFT hosted a virtual town hall with locally endorsed candidates for Texas State House. Cy-Fair AFT President Nikki Cowart sat down with Natali Hurtado, Bryan Henry, Akilah Bacy, and State Rep. Gina Calanni to talk about the future of public education in Texas, including their opposition to teacher merit pay and high-stakes standardized testing.

“I’m a product of public schools. My daughters are going to be products of public schools. And it’s about damn time that we have representatives who are willing to stand up there in Austin and make sure that we stop all the nonsense that is happening,” Natali Hurtado said.

When asked about the current challenges Texas teachers are facing in the classroom amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Bryan Henry, who is the Democratic candidate running for House District 130, empathized with teachers, school employees, parents, and students. “We know that public schools are just so basic to the functioning and fabric of society that we were never even willing to consider what it would mean for schools to not just reopen normally in the fall,” Henry, a former teacher, said.

State Rep. Gina Calanni asked AFT members to get more engaged with their local elections in the community. “The closer you get to the bottom of the ballot, the closer you get to your doorstep,” Calanni said. You can watch the full video on Cy-Fair AFT’s Candidate Forum here.

It is crucial that we elect pro-public education candidates to ensure our educators and school employees have representatives who are willing to fight and hold failed leaders like Gov.Greg Abbott accountable. Texas AFT is committed to this goal, but it is going to take all of us! Sign up here to help make phone calls or write postcards to educators near you today!

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Sign up for our T-TESS training on Oct. 28

Drawing of Classroom and Chalkboard with T-TESS notes

Texas AFT is offering a T-TESS virtual training on Wednesday, October 28, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Confused by the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS)? This session will discuss the four domains in the system and educate teachers about what their administrators will be looking for during their formal observations. The session also discusses how to gather artifacts for the end of year conference. Register for this free training here.


Protect Students GraphicOn Wednesdays, we wear red!

Turn your social media channels red each Wednesday in support of educators and students. Our goal is to show our numbers across platforms and to push local leaders and elected officials to show their support too.

While we’ve seen some districts and counties delay start dates for in-person instruction and move closer to our common sense plan for safe school reopenings, there’s still work to do this back-to-school season.


 
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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.

 


 

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