Teach the Vote's Week in Review: August 6, 2021
Texas Legislature Congress | Federal COVID-19 TEA | Commissioner | SBOE School Safety
Date Posted: 8/06/2021 | Author: Mark Wiggins
The ATPE Governmental Relations team recaps this week’s education news, legislative updates, and regulatory developments.
- Second special session called with new education items on the agenda
- State and federal leaders at odds over COVID-19 as school begins
- TEA releases new guidance on students who test positive for COVID-19
- Sales tax holiday weekend begins
SPECIAL SESSION: A new 30-day special session is set to begin Saturday, August 7, 2021, the day after the first special session quietly concluded without the ability to pass any bills. Democrats in the Texas House spent most of the special session out of state, denying the quorum needed to conduct business.
The Democrats’ quorum break defeated a controversial election bill that was a priority of Gov. Greg Abbott’s. The governor said he would continue to call additional special sessions until that bill is passed and included it in the list of agenda items for the second special session.
Among a half dozen new items, Gov. Abbott is asking lawmakers to consider strategies for public education during the COVID-19 pandemic, including measures that would ban mask requirements in schools, keep vaccinations voluntary, and ensure students have access to in-person learning even as the call could allow the Legislature to expand virtual education. In fact, a bill identical to virtual education legislation that nearly passed in the regular session has already been filed earlier today.
The governor's new call includes education-related legislation from the previous special session regarding social studies curriculum, a 13th check for retired educators, family violence education, and transgender student athletes. Read more and view the Governor’s full proclamation for the August 7 special session in this blog post by ATPE Governmental Relations Director Jennifer Mitchell.
COVID-19: On Thursday, the Biden administration announced a plan to boost vaccination rates among eligible children between the ages of 12 and 17, of whom only about 30% have been vaccinated. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other health experts warn the low vaccination rate could enable cases to surge at schools across the U.S. as the Delta variant continues to spread.
The White House plan includes urging health care providers to discuss the vaccine with students during scheduled physical exams required for participation in school athletic activities. The National Parent Teacher Association will also call upon 20,000 local organizations to host parent town halls discussing the importance of immunization.
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona singled out Texas and Florida this week in urging leaders to put children ahead of politics when it comes to safely reopening schools for in-person instruction amid a surge in COVID-19 infections. Sec. Cardona said he had reached out to officials in Texas, where Gov. Abbott has banned schools from implementing local COVID-19 mitigation practices such as requiring masks. "Don't be the reason why schools are disrupted, because of the politicization of this effort to reopen schools,” said Cardona. “We know what works. We have to keep our students safe. We have to keep our educators safe."
TEA: The Texas Education Agency (TEA) released new public health guidance for schools this week that emphasizes schools may not require students or staff to wear a mask. Despite the state prohibitions, some school district leaders announced this week their school boards will consider imposing mask mandates in some circumstances.
The new TEA guidance instructs schools to remove any student who tests positive for COVID-19, but it does not require schools to notify parents if their child has been exposed to someone who has tested positive and does not require classrooms to quarantine as a result of a COVID-19 exposure. Schools are allowed to regularly test staff for COVID-19 but may only test students with prior written permission from parents. For students who are required to stay home as a result of a quarantine or testing positive for COVID-19, schools are eligible to receive funding for limited remote instruction. You can view the new guidance here.
BACK-TO-SCHOOL SHOPPING: This year’s state sales tax holiday begins Friday, August 6, and lasts through midnight Sunday, August 8. Most clothes and shoes, school supplies, face masks, and backpacks can be purchased in-store or online free of tax this weekend. Click here for sales tax holiday rules and restrictions, including a list of eligible items.
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