AUSTIN (July 17, 2020) — The Texas Classroom Teachers Association appreciates the enhanced flexibility provided in the new state guidance released today by the Texas Education Agency. The guidance allows districts additional time to offer remote-only instruction in certain circumstances. However, we have ongoing concerns that state mandates may not allow districts to take the actions they feel necessary to protect their students and employees throughout the school year.

“Our message hasn’t changed, and the new guidance doesn’t include what we consider the most critical component in determining how and to what extent schools should be open: reliance on data and public health experts to determine when it is safe for students and employees to return to campus,” said Jeri Stone, TCTA executive director.

TCTA believes that the criteria for opening in person should be set at the state level by health authorities, in consultation with federal health experts, and districts should only open campuses when the criteria are met. Parameters should include:

  • A specified, sustained downward trajectory in new cases
  • A specified low overall per-capita level of new cases
  • A specified low rate of positive tests
  • A rate of testing per capita that is considered adequate for quickly identifying and curbing outbreaks
  • A specified percentage of available hospital beds to ensure treatment for all hospitalized COVID-19 patients and to handle a potential surge in hospitalizations.

Many teachers are ready to get back into the classroom, and where that is safe, it should be allowed. But if the health authorities at the state and local levels don’t believe that it is in the public interest for schools to reopen for classroom instruction, the state should not require it. Districts should also be prepared to accommodate students and staff who are at high risk of COVID-19 complications or severe cases.

We hope and anticipate that state guidance will continue to evolve. We also hope that today’s announcement that $200 million in CARES Act funding is to be allocated for the purchase of eLearning devices and home internet solutions will help ensure that students are able to access remote instruction when necessary.

TCTA understands the competing concerns from school employees, parents of schoolchildren, businesses and others in the community, and we know that state officials are trying to balance those concerns. But protecting the lives of Texas residents must be the first consideration.