Teach the Vote's Week in Review: Oct. 9, 2020
Date Posted: 10/09/2020
Education supporters celebrated World Teachers' Day on Monday. We at ATPE believe every day should be Teachers' Day, and we thank you for your hard work each and every day! Here are this week's other education news highlights, brought to you by ATPE Governmental Relations:
- CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: Reopening continues, TEA shares Election Day guidance, and state dashboard shows increase in school-related cases
- ELECTION UPDATE: Early voting starts Oct. 13
- FEDERAL UPDATE: More COVID-19 aid remains up in the air
- SBEC adopts ATPE-backed rule to help Master Teachers
CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: Governor Greg Abbott announced this week that he is relaxing restrictions on bars this week, allowing those in counties with low hospitalization rates to open at a capacity of 50%, so long as their county judge opts in.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) updated its COVID-19 resource page this week to reflect new guidance on attendance and enrollment, stating that school systems choosing to offer only remote instruction for a given day (such as Election Day) must ensure they meet the 75,600-minute requirement for the year and must still offer in-person instruction to families who want it. If the district remains in an approved transition period by Election Day and wants to offer remote-only instruction that day, it would be subject to TEA requirements that some students are present for on-campus instruction. Additionally, TEA noted that although school districts can adopt their own mask restrictions at school for students and staff, they cannot enforce mask requirements for voters on Election Day.
Also, the Texas Public Schools COVID-19 dashboard housed on the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) website was updated this week. The site uses data that school districts report to TEA on the number of test-confirmed cases among students and staff who engage in on-campus activities and instruction. Compared to last week's reported numbers, the number of positive cases rose by 2.3% among students and 7.8% among staff.
Be sure to check out ATPE's COVID-19 FAQs and Resources page and these other resources:
- Get answers to common legal questions about COVID-19 and earn CPE by watching ATPE's webcasts on our professional learning portal.
- Use our Parent-Teacher Toolkit, featuring our latest video on giving each other grace.
- See the pandemic and ATPE's response evolve through our updated, interactive timeline.
- Send messages to your government officials through Advocacy Central (for ATPE members only).
ELECTION UPDATE: Early voting begins Tuesday, October 13, and lasts three weeks through October 30. The Texas Supreme Court this week upheld Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to expand early voting by a week with the aim of easing crowding at polling locations. Meanwhile, federal election money is pouring into Texas -- a sign that both parties see a competitive presidential race in our state for the first time in years. That means Texans will see many more campaign ads in the final weeks before November 3, but they may not see another presidential debate. Read the latest in this week's Texas election roundup post from ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.
The League of Women Voters hosted a virtual event this week on the importance of learning about down-ballot races and how they impact you. Panelists for the event included ATPE Senior Lobbyist Monty Exter, who described how education is on the ballot from your choice of president, who appoints the U.S. Secretary or Education, all the way down to your school board. Watch the event here.
Raise Your Hand Texas has additional "For the Future" candidate forums taking place next week, where you can learn more about candidates' stances on public education issues. Click here for details.
Find additional general election voting dates and reminders here, and don't forget to check out our candidate profiles here on Teach the Vote.
FEDERAL UPDATE: Congressional negotiations on a comprehensive COVID-19 relief bill came to an abrupt halt Tuesday afternoon when President Trump tweeted out, "I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election..." The following day, after sharp declines in the stock market caused by his initial tweet, the President reversed course in part by calling for a handful of piecemeal bills. None of these standalone measures favored by the president and Senate Republicans would include relief funding for public education. Stay tuned for updates as the back-and-forth in Washington continues.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos continues to advance a pro-private school voucher agenda in meetings and events around the country. Voucher provisions have also been included in some of the Senate's recent proposals for additional COVID-19 relief funding. At an event in Wisconsin yesterday moderated by the DeVos-associated "American Federation of Children," parents complained that their income levels were too high to take advantage of voucher program in that state and argued that income caps should be abolished. Wisconsin already has 43,000 students enrolled in private schools with the assistance of vouchers, and 16,000 students in that state attend charter schools. DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education have also been pushing for the expansion of charter schools, with $33 million in grants announced last Friday for the state of Texas to grow its network of charter schools. Read more in this blog post from ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.
The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) met today, Oct. 9, 2020, voting to allow lifetime Legacy Master Teacher certificates. ATPE initiated the action on the Legacy Master Teacher issue by bringing it to SBEC members after hearing concerns from the field. ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier also testified against a proposal to allow email notifications of disciplinary investigations against educators, rather than certified and registered mail that is currently required. Read more about the meeting in this post by Chevalier.
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The Texas Education Commissioner addressed the committee during an interim hearing on Aug. 9, 2022.