We know this year has been especially difficult, and we are so grateful for all of you and your dedication to your students. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and be well!
68 members of Texas House ask TEA to cancel STAAR

This week, a bipartisan group of 68 Texas House members signed a letter calling on the Texas Education Agency to cancel STAAR exams. Lawmakers asked TEA to seek a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education to cancel the testing, as it did in the 2019-20 school year. TCTA also continues to urge the commissioner to cancel the STAAR tests and suspend accountability ratings this year.

TEA waived promotion requirements tied to STAAR testing in grades 5 and 8 for the 2020-21 school year, but Commissioner Morath has indicated that tests should be administered. The lawmakers said if students are tested, scores should only be used to determine how COVID-19 has impacted learning, and not for accountability ratings.

$420 million available for remote learning
Gov. Greg Abbott announced this week that $420 million is available to reimburse Texas public schools that purchased Wi-Fi hotspots and/or eLearning devices (such as laptops, tablets, and Chromebooks) so students could learn remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. TEA will release more details about how districts can apply for reimbursement on Friday.

Emergency paid sick leave expires Dec. 31
Emergency paid sick leave authorized by Congress in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in March expires on Dec. 31. TCTA is working through our lobbyists in Washington to urge Congress to extend this benefit, which provides up to two weeks of paid sick leave for employees who are unable to work or telework because they have COVID-19 or are required to self-isolate by governmental order or recommendation of a health care provider due to COVID-19. Up to 10 additional weeks of partially paid leave is also available to care for a family member with COVID-19. Members with questions about emergency paid sick leave should call the Legal Department at 888-879-8282.

More schools close as COVID cases climb
According to the state's COVID-19 dashboard for school districts, 31,678 Texas students and 18,742 staff members have tested positive through the week ending Nov. 15, with 6,343 students and 3,307 educators reporting new infections in the past week. Temporary school closures continue to increase statewide heading into the holidays. Goliad and Gilmer ISDs decided to start Thanksgiving break early, and Fort Stockton ISD will move all students back to virtual learning to complete the fall semester.

Among other COVID-19-related developments:
  • Districts continue to join TEA's rapid COVID-19 testing program, with Dallas ISD beginning testing this week.
  • Harlandale ISD trustees are giving full-time employees a $1,000 stipend in December to thank them for their hard work during the pandemic. Several other districts have announced similar bonuses.
  • Magnolia ISD will require students struggling with online learning to return to in-person instruction in January.

We have all the latest state and federal guidance in our COVID-19 FAQs on 2020-21 Education Issues. 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.
SBOE to approve new health, PE, science TEKS this week

The State Board of Education gave preliminary approval to revised health, PE and science TEKS during its meeting this week. Final approval is expected Friday as the board revises the sex ed standards for the first time since 1997. Middle and high school students will learn about birth control options beyond abstinence, but there will not be any references to consent, sexual orientation or gender identity, despite public testimony urging a more inclusive curriculum.
New home learning materials available for prekindergarten

The Texas Education Agency is releasing a full suite of resources and tools for prekindergarten through its Texas Home Learning 3.0 initiative. Like other offerings, these instructional materials are optional and aligned to Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. Click here to read more.
Teacher sues administrators, claiming she was coerced into resigning over nude photos

A teacher sued her campus principal and two assistant superintendents for attempting to coerce her into resigning from the district after they learned nude photos of the teacher were posted online. The principal reported an email containing a link to the photos to the two assistant superintendents, who directed him to bring the teacher to his office with the pictures on his computer screen for "shock factor" while confronting her about the situation and demanding she resign. Click here to read more.
TCTA Executive Board nominations due Nov. 28

Mark your calendar and plan to attend TCTA's 2021 Virtual Convention. The business meeting will be on Friday, Feb. 26. Earn continuing professional education hours by attending breakout sessions on Saturday, Feb. 27. We'll share more details soon. Ahead of the convention, there are some key deadlines approaching:
  • Nov. 28 is the deadline to notify headquarters if you want to run for statewide office or Director-at-Large. Positions on the ballot include President-elect, Governance Committee Chair, Legislation Committee Chair, Membership Committee Chair, Professional Rights & Responsibilities Committee Chair and Curriculum & Instruction Committee Chair (one-year term to fill a vacancy). Directors-at-Large will serve as needed to ensure proportionate minority representation on the Directors’ Council. Nominations may be made from the floor in February, but names will only appear on the ballot if candidates file by Nov. 28.
  • Nov. 28 is the deadline to notify headquarters of any proposed amendments to the TCTA Constitution and Bylaws. Amendments may be submitted from the floor in February, but will require a higher percentage to pass.
  • Dec. 28 is the deadline to notify headquarters if you want to be a delegate-at-large or a student delegate. This is a great way to learn more about TCTA if you're in a district without a local affiliate.
  • Local affiliate presidents will be sent information about their delegate allocations in mid-December.
Project Restore releases sixth video for training

Building Strong Partnerships with Students' Families, the sixth video in TEA's Project Restore series, is now available. This trauma-informed training 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 continuing professional education hours for completing the training. Click here for more information and to access the videos. 
TRS seeking petitions for active employee board seat

TRS is accepting petitions for eligible members to qualify as candidates for a public school district employee position on the TRS Board of Trustees. The deadline for receiving these petitions is Jan. 25, 2021. The term of the position begins as early as Sept. 1, 2021, and ends Aug. 31, 2027. An eligible member is a current employee of a public school district, charter school or regional education service center in a TRS-eligible position. To qualify for nomination, an eligible member must collect 250 signatures from TRS members whose most recent TRS service was performed for a public school district, a charter school or regional education service center. Click here for more information.
TCTA members eligible for T-Mobile discounts

TCTA members can now access savings from T-Mobile. Sign up on the Magenta Plus Plan and verify your employment with a public school system to start saving. Existing T-Mobile or Sprint customers are eligible to apply. Click here for more information.
Encourage your colleagues to join TCTA with Take 2/Make $25!

Encourage your colleagues to join TCTA and you could earn $25 for every two eligible Active-level members you recruit through Dec. 31 with our Take 2/Make $25 program. Click here for details. If you need brochures, pens or other materials to share on campus, please call the Membership Department at 888-879-8282 or email membership@tcta.org.
  • Thanksgiving is Nov. 26 (TCTA Headquarters will be closed Nov. 25-27).
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