Teach the Vote's Week in Review: Jan. 29, 2021
Congress | Federal COVID-19 Elections TEA | Commissioner | SBOE Privatization | Vouchers
Date Posted: 1/29/2021
Here are highlights of this week's state and federal education news, courtesy of the ATPE Governmental Relations team:
- SBOE appoints committees, presses Commissioner on tests and funding
- LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: Chairman Taylor discusses outlook for education and other news
- FEDERAL UPDATE: A trio of new bills to help schools, plus an upcoming confirmation hearing
- CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: Abbott opens voucher application, ATPE webinar on COVID-19
- ELECTION UPDATE: HD 68 special election heads to a runoff
- Register for ATPE at the Virtual Capitol
On Wednesday, the board heard from Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath, who notably said he would not cancel the spring STAAR even if the federal government waived testing requirements. Morath also said extending the “hold harmless” that protects districts from losing funding due to declining attendance is an issue legislators will have to handle. Morath also deflected questions relating to priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine for educators, saying the decision was not up to him. Read more about Morath’s comments in this blog post by Wiggins.
The full board wrapped up its business today. Read highlights of the final day’s meeting in this latest SBOE blog post by Wiggins.
The Dallas Morning News reported this week that Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) and over half the members of the House support extending the hold harmless provision on school funding, but Phelan said there should be proof that districts have reached out to missing students. ATPE and numerous other stakeholders have been urging Gov. Abbott to extend the hold harmless for the remainder of this school year.
In this week’s episode of “Point of Order,” a podcast hosted by Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith, Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) said a decision on the hold harmless would be made by leadership, echoing the Speaker’s position that districts should first show they are finding students who have gone missing since the beginning of the pandemic. Taylor also said STAAR tests should still take place this year “to see where we are.” Regarding the session overall, Taylor said this will be a slow one for education. Read more highlights with a link to the full interview with Chairman Taylor, which ATPE helped sponsor, in this blog post.
President Biden's nominee to become the next U.S. Secretary of Education, Dr. Miguel Cardona, will have his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, February 3. We'll provide updates here on Teach the Vote next week. Also, after Democrats gained a majority in the Senate, there will be some changes in the leadership of Senate committees. Former preschool teacher Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) is expected to be named the Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee, with Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) as the ranking member.
This week, ATPE hosted a webinar on “COVID-19 & Your Rights: An Update,” which covered vaccines, denial of remote work accommodations, teacher evaluations, and more. ATPE members can log-in to watch an archived version of the webinar here. For educator concerns related to COVID-19, please visit ATPE’s Coronavirus FAQ and Resource page.
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