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Teach the Vote's Week in Review: Dec. 18, 2020

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

School Finance Congress | Federal COVID-19

Date Posted: 12/18/2020

ATPE wishes you a restful, relaxing, and safe holiday break. The ATPE office will be closed December 21 – January 1. Cozy up with this week’s education news from the ATPE Governmental Relations team: 

ThinkstockPhotos-medwt16002.jpgFEDERAL UPDATE: A $900 billion federal stimulus package hangs in the balance in Washington, D.C., with negotiations ongoing as of Friday afternoon. ATPE has been urging Congress to include in that new legislation an extension of paid leave benefits provided earlier this year through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The earlier relief bill provided up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to employees, as well extended medical leave for families affected by COVID-19. The leave provisions can be a lifesaver for educators, who often have precious and limited sick days afforded to them. As ATPE Executive Director Shannon Holmes said, "Health concerns and forced quarantines are likely to continue well into the new year,” even with vaccines on the horizon, making it important to extend the leave options for school employees. Read more in this blog post.   

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: Gov. Greg Abbott gave a press conference Thursday to share an update on COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Texas. Abbott said roughly 95,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine had been distributed, with another 129,000 scheduled for distribution yesterday. He reiterated the state’s distribution plan, which includes priority access for healthcare workers, front-line workers, and vulnerable populations. Though the term “front-line workers” has not yet been formally defined, Abbott notably said in the press conference he considers teachers to be front-line workers and hopes they will be "near the front of the line.” Read more about Gov. Abbott''s press conference in this this blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins. 

ATPE Senior Lobbyist Monty Exter told the Dallas Morning News this week that vaccinating teachers was important in limiting quarantine-related disruptions to student learning. Similarly, ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins told Austin newsradio station KLBJ and Central Texas CBS 10 KWTX that teachers’ access to vaccines is critical to resuming normal school operations. ATPE has been recommending that educators be prioritized in vaccine allocation plans and discussing the issue with numerous state officials lately. 

Dec-2020-Wrap-up-Mark-KXAN.jpgRelated: While taking questions from the press, Abbott also expressed this week that he believes the State Capitol should and will be reopened for the upcoming legislative session. Mark Wiggins commented on this in an interview this week with KXAN, saying public access is critical to the democratic process, even if it’s virtual. 

As always, ATPE’s list of comprehensive resources related to COVID-19 and answers to frequently asked questions is available to you here.  

On Monday, ATPE joined other education advocacy groups asking Gov. Abbott to extend minimum funding guarantees for public schools that are set to expire this month. The “hold harmless” agreements protect school districts from losing funds because of declines in attendance and enrollment this year. With challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, it is clear than schools need an extension of the funding guarantee. Read more in this blog post by ATPE Senior Lobbyist Monty Exter. 

17_web_Spotlight_AdvocacyCentral_1.jpgATPE members are encouraged to take five minutes to send a message to state officials about the need for extending the hold harmless. Find sample messages, links to officeholders, and more here on Advocacy Central. (ATPE member login is required.)

ThinkstockPhotos-485333274_Vote-smaller.jpgELECTION UPDATE: Tomorrow is election day in the runoff for Senate District 30 between State Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster) and Pilot Point salon-owner Shelley Luther (R). Find information on the SD 30 special election candidates, including Rep. Springer's voting record on key education issues in the Texas House, by searching the candidates here on Teach the Vote. For polling places and hours, check here.

The Winter 2020 issue of ATPE News, our association’s award-winning quarterly magazine, is now available. The issue includes a feature by ATPE Governmental Relations Director Jennifer Mitchell entitled "The Zoom Legislature: ATPE Prepares for a Session Unlike Any Other," which discusses what the upcoming session might be like and how ATPE will advocate for educators against the backdrop of the pandemic. Also, don't miss this issue's "Who's Really Calling the Shots" article to learn more about the interplay between federal, state, and local entities. In her "Your Voice" column, ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier explains why educator feedback is so important to the policy process.  Stacked_logo_2021_color.jpg

This issue also previews our biennial advocacy event, ATPE at the *Virtual* Capitol. Save the date on February 21 to attend this free, virtual event and boost your advocacy skills! Registration will open in January. Find more detail here

If you are a Reading Specialist or School Librarian looking to take on a leadership role, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently announced they are seeking nominations for educator standards committees in each of these areas. The committees will advise TEA and the State Board for Educator Certification on the knowledge and skills needed for those certificates. The nomination period runs through February 15, 2021! Read more in this blog post from ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier. 


You may have noticed that Teach the Vote has a brand-new look! We’ve updated our site to a new, contemporary design. Watch for additional updates coming soon, and share any feedback on the new site with ATPE at comm@atpe.org



Deann Lee

SO MANY important things going on! Please don’t let the holidays keep you too busy to advocate for public education. THANK YOU ATPE for staying on top of all of it!

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