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TCTA staff and leadership are closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and its potential impact on Texas schools, our members and TCTA operations, especially with regard to the recommendations of healthcare experts including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

We've compiled answers to many of the questions our members are asking about COVID-19. The situation is changing rapidly, and key factors will differ from school district to school district. This information will be updated as new details emerge, but we encourage TCTA members with specific questions to call our staff attorneys at 888-879-8282. Members with general inquiries can submit them through the Ask-a-Lawyer portal.

Gov. Greg Abbott on May 18 announced his next wave of reopenings designed to restart the Texas economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying child care facilities can reopen immediately, bars can open May 22 with limited capacity and sporting events can return without fans at the end of the month. Abbott's order also allows schools to reopen for in-person instruction beginning June 1.

In a preview of the upcoming state legislative session, which begins Jan. 12, 2021, Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson warned that she would begin her examination of state agency budgets at “zero.”

Gov. Greg Abbott recently appointed TCTA member Jean Streepey to the State Board for Educator Certification. Streepey is a seventh grade math teacher in Highland Park ISD in Dallas. Abbott also appointed Julia Moore of Pflugerville to the board. SBEC oversees all aspects of the preparation, certification and standards of conduct of public school educators. Streepey and Moore will fill terms on the 15-member board that are set to expire on Feb. 1, 2025. 

TEA has begun providing information to school districts about using a newly created program that provides half-day funding for up to 30 additional school days (the Additional Days School Year, or ADSY) for grades pre-K through 5 as a solution for dealing with COVID-19 educational interruptions for the upcoming school year. This program was created in House Bill 3 during the 2019 legislative session, and Commissioner Mike Morath has enthusiastically promoted it, including as the focus of his presentation to TCTA members at our  winter 2020 annual meeting. TEA is recommending additional days in conjunction with major revisions to the school calendar. TCTA is not aware of a surge of districts planning to make such changes for 2020-21, but teachers should be alert to any such discussions because of the many challenges and the need for strong educator input.

The U.S. Department of Education released final regulations on Title IX this week. The final campus sexual assault rules come two years after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos revoked Obama-era guidance and convened a negotiated rule making committee.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos proposed a new funding priority in mid-April that would empower teachers to rethink their professional development.

After releasing Phase 1 of the Texas Home Learning Model in mid-April, which provides eight weeks of learning plans/instructional materials for all grades for continued instruction of students while schools are closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, TEA has now released an overview of Phase 2 for summer learning instruction.

On May 5, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Texas Education Agency guidance on graduation ceremonies for Texas school districts. Districts should consult with legal counsel to make sure graduation ceremony plans are allowed under current state and local orders. Participation by a student or family member in a ceremony is voluntary. A student may participate in a graduation ceremony upon certification that the student has satisfied all graduation requirements. TEA is providing four options for schools to honor their graduating seniors, and each district may choose any of these preferences that best serve the needs and desires of their community.

The Texas Education Agency recently announced the availability of optional end-of-year assessments that districts, educators and parents can use to monitor student progress for the remainder of the school year, in light of remote instruction necessitated by school closures due to COVID-19. In addition, TEA is working on optional diagnostic beginning-of-year assessments for use as the 2020–21 school year starts, which will be provided in addition to the interim assessments available next school year.