You can find all news, updates and resources addressing COVID-19 here on our website.
Texas AFT launches COVID-19 tracker for public school campuses
Thursday we launched an online tool for teachers and others to track COVID-19 cases and report unsafe working conditions on campuses. Texas AFT initiated the project after hearing that state officials would be reporting only district-wide data and not data from individual public school campuses.
“This tool is giving a voice to our teachers, school employees, and the community to help keep them safe and monitor what’s really happening in their neighborhood schools,” said Zeph Capo, Texas AFT president. “You can’t stop the spread of COVID-19 if you don’t have the information you need on outbreaks, or on dangerous workplace situations that can lead to an outbreak.”
When users visit StopTheSpreadTX.school they can search for reports of COVID-19 cases on specific campuses and in other district facilities, and they can report cases. Also reportable is information on unsafe working conditions and the ability of school employees to tell their own stories on the challenges of educating in the pandemic. Results from reports are pinned on a Texas map, which users also can click to view more information.
“While the state this week is requiring school districts to start submitting reports on COVID-19 cases, it’s unclear when that information will be available to the public, and since the plan is to publish only district-wide data, it won’t equip the public with the information it needs stop the spread of the virus,” Capo said.
“Texas AFT is doing what a union’s role should be: protecting people’s lives and protecting our health and safety,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “And we’re doing it, in part, by providing the transparency that the government should be doing, but isn’t. What we need is for everyone to take responsibility. When you see something, you need to say something.”
Cases reported on the website are linked to evidence—usually emails or web postings from principals and superintendents, or news reports on those communications—which users also can view. Texas AFT staff confirm that the evidence is sufficient as reports come in.
Please note: If the site isn’t loading, please keep trying as we have been getting thousands of visitors at one time slowing the site down. If you can’t find your campus, send us an email at email@example.com.
SBOE approves six new charters schools despite unprecedented community opposition
Raise Your Hand Texas has produced an interactive map showing the rapid expansion of charter schools in Texas.
Today the SBOE finally approved six of the eight new charter schools approved by the commissioner of education. The Board vetoed three of the applicants—a new record for this Board—which has only vetoed three charter applicants in the past several years. The vetoed charter operators are Clear, Heritage Academy, and Rocketship.
We have champions like Gina Perez, Ruben Cortez, and Aicha Davis to thank for consistently choosing to fight for our public schools by voting against all of the charter applicants. They listened to community members, including 20 education advocacy organizations that sent a letter to the SBOE asking the board to veto all eight new charters, which would cost the state an estimated $88 million more than if students enrolled in school districts, and at a time when Texas faces a major budget deficit.
The vote came after about two-thirds of the nearly 100 registered witnesses were cut out of the process when testimony was limited to only three hours on Thursday. This silenced many opponents of these new charters, including parents and community members who had a petition with over 700 signatures asking the SBOE to reject a San Antonio-targeted charter to be located near already highly-rated schools. The Board never heard from this group, public school officials, or many other parents and community members who signed up to oppose these charters being built in their communities. As it stands now, Texas spends $3.1 billion per year on unaccountable charter schools. As SBOE board member Gina Perez put it, “It is NEVER a good time to divert taxpayer funds from public schools that serve ALL students, but it’s shameful to do so during a pandemic/recession.”
Court halts DeVos scheme for diverting pandemic aid to private schools
An attempt by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to divert federal coronavirus aid for public schools to private-school coffers was halted by the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia last Friday. In NAACP v. DeVos, the court ruled that DeVos and the Department of Education violated the CARES Act when they issued a regulation that would divert emergency relief funds from public school school districts to private schools. It required districts to give more funding for “equitable services” to private school students than the law allows or face heavy restrictions on the use of those funds in their public schools.
The regulation would have dramatically reduced resources available to public school children during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially taking a toll on historically marginalized student populations, including low-income students and students of color. A coalition of educational equity organizations in Texas, including the Texas American Federation of Teachers, submitted an amicus brief supporting the plaintiff in the lawsuit. According to the Intercultural Development Research Association, the rule would have required 185 Texas public school districts to set aside an additional $38.7 million in relief funds to private schools within their district boundaries.
The CARES Act relief funds are necessary for public schools to make sure that students are able to have a safe learning environment. Public school districts nationwide have had to juggle unique challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, including adapting to online learning, providing technology for low-income students, and maintaining quality of education.
Make sure your voter registration is complete and correct!
The deadline to register to vote, October 5, is less than a month away. Now is the time to make sure you and everyone that you know are registered properly–e.g. at the right address. And yes, you should check even if you haven’t moved in years and have voted in every election possible, as we’ve seen media coverage of voters in that situation who have nonetheless faced being purged from voter rolls. Here’s what you can do to make sure you are ready to early vote on October 13- 30 or on Election Day on November 3rd.
- If you need to register to vote, check here for information on registering and where to get an application.
- Visit the state’s website to check your voter registration status. (It’s best to have either your voter registration card or driver’s license number handy, although you can try with just your birth date and address.)
- If you do notice a designation of “suspense” or some other issue, or if you can’t locate your registration, visit the FAQ page of the Texas Secretary of State for answers to common questions, and/or call your county tax assessor collector or county registrar.
- And when you find that your residence/registration is correct, use that as an opportunity to see who represents you at the state and federal levels, so that you’ll be prepared to do your homework and elect friends of public education in November. You can see a full list of our endorsed candidates here.
High school student registration is also an important part of getting out the vote. For many high school students, this November will be the first time that they are eligible to vote and many of those who will be eligible are not currently registered. In order to encourage first-time voters to get out to the polls, Texas AFT has compiled resources into an easy to use toolkit. The toolkit provides a step-by-step guide to forming a voter registration program at your school. Click here to check out the full tool kit on AFT’s website!
Texas Senate task force offers recommendations for school reopenings
The Senate Democratic Caucus created an Education Stakeholder Task Force that is composed of child care providers, teachers, administrators, parents, and representatives from state wide organizations. These individuals and organizations shared their concerns and recommendations regarding reopening schools and making distanced learning more equitable.
The recommendations created by the task force after several meetings are outlined below:
- Local districts should make the decision to reopen shoulds with substantial feedback from parents, teachers, and data from public health officials.
- The state should offer schools resources and develop COVID-19 action plans to assist schools and student populations that are being disportionately impacted by COVID-19.
- The state should also work to ensure transparency with distribution of state and federal funding and provide additional funding to mitigate COVID-19.
- The state should address the challenges presented with distanced learning by providing essential learning materials to students who are in need.
- The state should give districts and teachers flexibility to ensure all students’ needs are met.
- The state should work to continue the pause of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) by obtaining federal waivers.
- The state should be dedicated to ensuring that the services offered in school are able to continue in different learning environments.
Member Benefit Spotlight: Get debt relief!
Our member benefits partner, UnionPlus.org, offers a variety of services to help you manage and eliminate your credit card debt, including counseling on mortgage assistance. From debt consolidation to helpful tips on reducing your payments, they’ve got you covered. Start here.
On 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.
- Download the red #ProtectStudents #ProtectEducators photo for your Facebook profile and see what other actions you can take to spread the word.
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.