TCTA has top-ranked teacher lobby team (again)
TCTA's lobby team was ranked the highest among the teacher groups in Capitol Inside's Texas Lobby Power Rankings for 2021. This marks TCTA's eighth session in a row as the top team representing teacher interests in Austin. 

TEA's insistence that all students take in-person STAAR tests this spring has drawn opposition from many stakeholders. This week a large, bipartisan group of lawmakers sent Education Commissioner Mike Morath a letter asking him to create a mechanism for students and families to opt out. See Morath's response below.

State Sen. Jose Menendez is seeking input from educators, parents and students on STAAR testing. Click here to fill out the survey by Feb. 13.

The Senate Finance Committee held its first meeting of the 87th Legislative session this week as it starts work on the state budget. On Feb. 22, the committee will review budget proposals for school finance/TEA and TRS.

Bills introduced at the Capitol have a lot of hurdles to clear before becoming law. Check out this explanation of the process. Then take a look at some bills related to student discipline filed so far this session.

Throughout the session, you can find daily Updates from the Capitol and track key legislation related to education in our Bill Summaries.
Commissioner Morath talks about STAAR testing, other education issues in pandemic

During a conversation today with Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune, Education Commissioner Mike Morath reiterated that spring STAAR testing would be used as a benchmarking tool to help determine how the pandemic has impacted student learning. He said this data is needed so educators can decide how to support students as they recover lost learning.

When asked about the recent request from lawmakers to provide parents a mechanism to opt out of in-person STAAR testing, Morath indicated that parents educating their students remotely could simply choose to “stay [with] remote instruction that day.”

Morath also addressed school funding and keeping schools open for in-person learning during the pandemic, saying schools should "make every reasonable accommodation" to support teacher and staff needs. Click here to watch.
SBOE asks state to give teachers access to vaccine

The State Board of Education sent a letter to the state's vaccine allocation panel this week asking that all public school teachers and staff be added to Phase 1B to make them eligible for COVID-19 vaccines immediately, joining the effort by TCTA and other education groups to designate educators as a priority group. While we hope all Texas educators who want vaccinations get access soon, the state has not yet changed the criteria for eligibility for Phase 1B.

In our recent survey about COVID-19 protections in schools, 58% of respondents said they would get the vaccine as soon as possible.
Another 9% said they'd get it eventually, 15% were undecided and 13% said they did not want the COVID-19 vaccine.

As the vaccination effort continues, it remains important to follow federal health and safety recommendations. The CDC revised its policy on face masks this week, urging Americans to consider wearing two masks to better protect themselves from more contagious variants of COVID-19. Click here for the new guidelines and examples of the proper ways to wear a mask.

The UK variant has been confirmed in several parts of Texas, including the Austin area. Hays CISD closed a middle school campus for two weeks after a student with no symptoms tested positive for the UK variant this week. According to the state dashboard, 7,751 Texas students and 3,113 educators tested positive for COVID-19 for the week ending Jan. 31.

We have all the latest state and federal guidance in our COVID-19 FAQs on 2020-21 Education Issues. This week we updated information about COVID-19 testing in schools. While this information is not legal advice, we hope it helps answer questions you may have about COVID-19's impact on schools. Members who have specific concerns or questions should call the Legal Department at 888-879-8282 to speak with a staff attorney.
Feeling stressed? These resources can help

Among the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic is its impact on mental health. Teaching is stressful in normal times. Now it's even more important to take care of yourself and know how to support your colleagues and students who may be struggling.
  • Self-Assessment and Planning Tool: Take this self-assessment and find links to resources to help you take care of yourself.
  • Project Restore: TEA's six-part, trauma-informed series connects educators to relevant science and strategies that can help them address the emotional needs of their students, themselves, their colleagues and students’ families. Teachers earn CPE hours for completing the training.
Charter school principal can't appeal firing to commissioner

The principal of a charter school filed a grievance after being notified the school was terminating her employment. She appealed the charter school's decision to the commissioner of education, who concluded he did not have authority to hear the case. Click here to find out why.
Register now for TCTA's 2021 Virtual Convention
Get updates on TCTA initiatives and earn up to 9 hours of CPE credit by attending TCTA's Virtual Convention on Friday, Feb. 26, and Saturday, Feb. 27, with additional CPE opportunities on Saturday, March 6. Voting during the Representative Assembly meeting is restricted to official delegates designated by local affiliate presidents, so contact your CTA president if you would like to participate. Every delegate must also complete the online registration form. Delegates should register by Feb. 14 to ensure they receive mailed materials before the meeting. Click here to learn more and register now.
Save on Valentine's Day gifts and more with TicketsatWork

Save up to 60% on flowers, food and more for Valentine's Day through TicketsatWork. TCTA members can click here to log in and explore the holiday offers and all of the other available discounts. If this is your first time to use TicketsatWork, click the button to "Become a Member" and sign up using company code SWTCTA.
  • Feb. 14 is Valentine's Day.
  • Feb. 15 is Presidents Day.
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