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Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Sept. 24, 2021

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Educator Preparation | Certification Texas Legislature Congress | Federal COVID-19 Elections Curriculum | Instruction TEA | Commissioner | SBOE Privatization | Vouchers School Safety

Date Posted: 9/24/2021

The ATPE Governmental Relations team recaps this week’s education news, legislative updates, and regulatory developments.

COVID-19: The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has opened an investigation into Texas’ ban on mask mandates in public school districts. The investigation followed an update to Texas Education Agency guidance last week that states, per Gov. Abbott’s executive order GA-38, “school systems cannot require students or staff to wear a mask.” OCR says the prohibition on mask mandates may prevent schools from “considering or meeting the needs of students with disabilities.”

Shannon HolmesATPE Executive Director Shannon Holmes was featured in a Texas Tribune article this week on the investigation, saying school districts should be free to make their own decisions to protect students and staff, including “protecting groups of high-risk students so as to provide the free appropriate public education required under federal law.” In another article, the Texas Tribune reports there have been more COVID-19 cases among students in the first two months of this school year than during the entirety of the 2020-21 school year.

Also new this week, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) took the rare step of overruling an advisory committee’s recommendation that teachers should not be included in groups for which COVID-19 booster vaccinations are recommended. After the committee recommended an additional shot of the Pfizer vaccine for older adults and some with underlying medical conditions, Dr. Rochelle Walensky decided today that frontline healthcare workers and school employees should be included, if they and their physicians believe the third shot is appropriate for their individual circumstances. As we navigate the rapidly changing COVID-19 landscape and growing questions about vaccines, ATPE’s COVID-19 FAQ and Resources page is a great resource for Texas educators to find answers.

ELECTIONS: Tuesday, Sept. 28, is election day in two special races to fill vacancies in the Texas House. Today is the last day of early voting.

Tuesday’s election includes a runoff for a hot race in House District (HD) 10, where private school vouchers have become the focal point. As we reported here on Teach the Vote, former state representative John Wray (R) of Waxahachie has been endorsed by Texas Parent PAC, which backs candidates who explicitly oppose vouchers, while Brian Harrison (R) of Midlothian touts the endorsement of former U.S. Education Secretary and voucher advocate Betsy DeVos.

Also Tuesday, voters in San Antonio’s HD 118 will choose a new state representative from among Republican candidates Adam Salyer and John Lujan and Democratic candidates Katie FariasDesi Martinez, and Frank Ramirez, IV. With five candidates in the race, a runoff is likely. View profiles of all the candidates here on Teach the Vote.

Tuesday is also National Voter Registration Day. Be sure to confirm your registration, especially if you have recently moved, and don’t forget to check in with your friends and family, too!

SESSION: The Texas Legislature’s third special session began Monday, and Gov. Abbott announced Wednesday he was adding property tax relief and bail reform to the agenda. The Senate has already approved Senate Bill (SB) 3, which would restrict transgender students from participating in University Interscholastic League (UIL) competitions that match their gender identity. The House Public Education Committee had scheduled its first hearing for Tuesday, Sept. 28, to hear invited testimony on an interim charge to examine the impact of U.S.-Mexico migration on Texas public schools. That meeting has been canceled as of Friday afternoon.

For more on start of the third special session this week, see this blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier.

SOCIAL STUDIES: New education laws are set to reshape the way civics is taught in Texas public schools, including House Bills 4509 and 3979 from the regular session and SB 3 from the second special session. As a result of these bills and as part of a regularly scheduled review of Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) curriculum standards, the State Board of Education (SBOE) will complete a revamp of the K-12 social studies TEKS next year. The SBOE is now accepting applications from educators to serve on social studies TEKS review work groups. Find more information from the ATPE lobby team in this blog post, or go straight to the application.

SBEC: The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) will meet Friday, Oct. 1. Much of the lengthy agenda focuses on implementation of legislation enacted earlier this year, including changes to allow educator preparation programs (EPPs) to observe candidates virtually, create more leeway for educators who need to leave their contracts, clarify how EPPs approach content related to students with disabilities, and align rules on continuing professional education with new laws aimed at streamlining those requirements. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for a recap of the meeting next week.

EDTPA: Educate Texas, the Texas Education Agency, and the education nonprofit TNTP are partnering to study the experiences educator certification candidates and cooperating teachers have had with the Texas EdTPA pilot project. Educators who agree to be interviewed about their EdTPA experiences will receive an Amazon gift card. Find more info here.


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