(TEXAS) – Today, the Texas Education Agency announced on a call with superintendents a series of decisions and options they are weighing for the 2020-2021 school year. The call was a follow-up from a conversation that Gov. Abbott had with lawmakers last week announcing that schools will re-open – an announcement that came as a surprise to many if not all lawmakers.
For several months, Members of the House Democratic Caucus have been part of a caucus working group addressing COVID-19 related issues. Today, those Members – including Dr. Mary González, Rep. Rep. Donna Howard, Rep. Diego Bernal, Rep. James Talarico, Rep. Vikki Goodwin, Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos, and Rep. Anna Eastman – issued the following joint statement:
“How can students learn and teachers teach when they are rightly concerned about their health and safety? It is beyond reason how Gov. Abbott can say what he did today – that everyone should stay at home as much as possible – while also suggesting it’s safe for students and teachers to go back to classrooms.
“We can’t be afraid to do what is hard, and parents and teachers shouldn’t be left alone to worry about student and teacher safety. We know that all the Members of the House Democratic Caucus will continue to put student safety first, listen to and trust our local school districts, and fight like hell to make sure every penny available goes to provide direct support to students and public schools.”
The decision to re-open comes despite severe concerns from students, teachers, and parents that returning to school may not be safe in the fall. The announcements also coincide with an outbreak of COVID-19 that has led to nearly two weeks of record hospitalizations and rising cases that even Gov. Abbott decreed “unacceptable.”
Gov. Abbott and the Texas Education Agency are also under fire for not promising to reimburse public schools 100% of any COVID-19 related-expenses. This is on top of their decision to use nearly $1.2 billion in COVID-related federal funds to supplant the state’s share of school funding this past spring rather than providing school districts with funds for reopening safely in the fall. The state currently has $120 million in discretionary federal dollars that can be used for public education, but has not committed to using those funds for COVID-19 related costs.
The Texas House Democratic Caucus, which is composed of all Democrats in the Texas House, serves as the group’s membership services and logistical arm, and works to support House Democrats with communications, policy, and legal resources. Chaired by Rep. Chris Turner (D – Grand Prairie), the Caucus is focused on fighting for real solutions for all Texans.
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