September 25, 2020: The Hotline: Morath insults educators with test comment; But TEA offers some help to South Texas schools; Honoring RGB

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


Missed our latest Know Your Rights Workshop?

Snapshot of Zoom Meeting on Know Your RightsOur webinar on Wednesday highlighted how union members are forming “Safety Teams” in districts to ensure officials are following safety protocols. And guest presenter Registered Nurse Trudy Hilty from Houston gave an overview on the role of nurses in the pandemic. You can watch the recording here on YouTube or on Facebook.


New TEA guidelines offer first step in helping districts in pandemic hotspots

Responding to an outpouring of demand for flexibility in South Texas and the Rio Grande Map of South Texas with Covid GermsValley, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath today issued new guidelines that allow for school districts in areas with spiking COVID-19 cases to request a waiver for additional remote instruction–beyond the maximum eight-week transition period allowable initially. TEA will take into consideration the governor’s recent orders designating areas that must maintain 50% capacity for business occupancy in weighing decisions on waivers for additional days.

“We are appreciative that state officials are responding positively to the thousands of our school employee members lighting up the switchboards and inboxes of the governor and education commissioner asking for common-sense measures to keep out communities safe in pandemic hot spots,” said Zeph Capo, Texas AFT president.

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Now that we’ve thanked the Commissioner of Education, it’s time to take him to task for an insult to educators and help elect true supporters of public education

Mike Morath at Dallas ChamberEducation Commissioner Mike Morath put his foot in his mouth this week speaking to a group of business leaders in Dallas when he tried to justify the continuation of STAAR testing during the pandemic.

“Teaching without some form of testing is just talking,” Mike Morath told his corporate backers.

Just talking? Educators spend their evenings, weekends, and holidays writing lesson plans. They pour their hearts and souls into this profession. But without high-stakes testing, Morath thinks we’re just chit-chatting. He diminishes our profession while he pushes an agenda of privatized schools, teacher pay tied to student performance, and constant, unending testing.

We need to elect a Legislature that will hold Morath accountable. Will you chip in $5 to help us?* Educators are putting lives on the line every day for our kids, but to Morath, we’re “just talking.” Help us hold Mike Morath accountable for his extreme agenda. A $5 donation can help us elect a pro-public education majority in November*.

* Texas AFT under state law is not allowed to use member dues money for political contributions to candidates. So, voluntary contributions from members to the Committee On Political Education (COPE) are the only means to provide direct financial support to candidates. Additionally, Texas AFT can only solicit from its members and their immediate family members for contributions to COPE. If you are unsure about eligibility to donate, give us a call at 512-448-0130, and we will help you figure it out!

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Safe Schools act guide provides a roadmap for keeping learning environment safe and free from disruption

Safe School Brochure Cover: Students sitting in a circle
Texas AFT has a long history of advocating for safe learning environments for all students and staff. More than 25 years ago, Texas AFT launched its campaign on safety in the classroom that resulted in the Safe Schools Act becoming law in 1995. Texas AFT’s updated Safe Schools Act Guide can now be found on our website. The guide includes critical information on how the law works and the many developments in science and education that have provided a more thoughtful approach to addressing student behavior in the decades since the Safe Schools Act was created.

Under Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code, the Safe Schools Act gives teachers significant authority to remove a student who is exhibiting excessive disruptive behavior during class, and it outlines instances when removal is mandated under state law. In 2013, bus drivers also were given the authority to remove disruptive students from their vehicles, ensuring all students—including those who engage in misconduct—can receive educational services in a safe, orderly setting that meets their needs. In 2019, the Legislature added “conduct containing the elements of harassment against a school employee” to the list of behaviors for which a student must be removed to an alternative education program.

Texas AFT’s online Safe Schools Act guide will help you navigate the key provisions of the law and determine which part of the statute is applicable to your situation. It also explores important considerations when exercising the option for discretionary removal, as well as issues around disciplinary actions related to Chapter 37.

As a teacher or bus driver considering the need to remove a student using chapter 37, reach out to your local union or our state office for support. Our union can help you determine if your district’s current discipline procedures and code of conduct meet the needs of you and your students and if not, it can help you advocate for improvements in the system.

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Honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her contributions to education

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

We honor the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on her passing last Friday. Ginsburg was a fearless advocate for gender inequality and was the second woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court. She also consistently voted on education cases that supported minority communities.

“Her unfailing sense of justice reminded us of its awesome power, and her unbending sense of duty reminded us to remain committed to protecting our democracy, our Constitution and the rule of law,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “But it was her personal courage and resilience, especially in the face of illness, that reminded us just how much strength one single person can have.”

Ginsburg attended Cornell University and obtained her law degree at Columbia. After law school, she completed a law professorship and assisted the American Civil Liberties Union with the launching of their Women’s Rights Project. President Jimmy Carter then nominated her to serve in the District Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit, where she served for six years.

Ginsburg voted on landmark cases such as United States v. Virginia, Shelby County v. Holder, and Obergefell v. Hodges. She voted in support of affirmative action to increase enrollment for students of color in higher education cases. As she experienced many years of gender discrimination as the only women at the table in many male-dominated settings, she continuously voted in support of gender equity in schools and broadened the reach of Title IX.

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DeVos scheme to distribute more relief money to private schools is scuttled for good

 

Betsy DeVosThis week, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was forced to reverse course on her controversial plan to give a disproportionate amount of CARES Act funding to private schools at the expense of public schools. DeVos’ reluctant reversal came after the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered that her plan be vacated because the rule that she put in place violated federal law as it directly went against the U.S. Congress’s intention by passing the CARES Act.

In passing the CARES Act, lawmakers on either side of the aisle agreed that the funding should be distributed to private and public schools using the same formula in which all federal aid is traditionally distributed based on the number of children from low-income families which the schools served, but DeVos’ plan to distribute the aid would have based the distribution on the total numbers of children attending private schools, regardless of whether students were considered low-income or not. In July, DeVos backed off slightly on this rule by saying that any money received by private schools had to be spent for the benefit of students from low-income families, but this plan would be impossible to implement or regulate and still would have sent hundreds of millions of dollars more to private schools than Congress had intended.

The court order for DeVos to vacate the rule altogether will ensure a more equitable distribution of CARES Act funds across Texas. The Texas Education Agency updated its guidance to LEAs (Local Education Authorities) to reflect the reversal of DeVos’ plan, ordering all the LEAs who were planning to distribute money on DeVos’ formula to instead use the more equitable, traditional distribution formula. Public dollars will still be sent to private schools, but private schools will no longer be given an extreme, disproportionate advantage as DeVos had originally planned.

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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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