COVID-19 NEWS
Gov. Abbott: Texas schools closed until May 4
This week, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order that closes schools until May 4 and extends social distancing guidelines through April 30 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is in line with guidance from federal officials. Through April 1, more than half of the state's 254 counties have reported at least one COVID-19 case. School district and charter school educators and staff supporting distance learning and student food service programs are considered employees performing essential services under this order. We know you are worried about being required to report to work due to health and safety concerns and that many of you also have childcare issues. Last month, we sent a letter to Gov. Abbott asking that he urge school districts to stop requiring teachers to be on campus if they can facilitate distance learning from home.

We continue to update our FAQ about COVID-19 as new guidance emerges from TEA, the U.S. Department of Education, and state and federal officials (keep scrolling to see what's new this week). Districts across the state are handling related issues differently, and orders from cities and counties also vary. We're in regular contact with state officials and reaching out to local districts when members let us know about problems. We strongly encourage members who have specific questions to call us at 888-879-8282 so we can help with the situation in your area. You also can submit general inquiries through our Ask-a-Lawyer portal and we'll respond as quickly as possible.

We hope you all stay safe and healthy as you continue to support students.
CARES Act gives Texas $1.28 billion for schools
On March 27, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The CARES Act is the third legislative measure in response to the COVID-19 crisis and is estimated to cost approximately $2 trillion, including $30.75 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund, of which Texas is expected to receive $1.286 billion.

The CARES Act gives the U.S. secretary of education broad waiver authority, including for academic assessments, accountability provisions, school improvement/support, professional development, allocation and accounting for federal funding, and reporting requirements. Click here to read more.

The act also provides recovery rebates for individuals, with payments of $1,200 for adults and $500 for children. Checks will be sent to taxpayers with incomes up to $75,000 (single) or $150,000 (married). Amounts will be based on the taxpayer’s 2018 or 2019 federal tax return, whichever was filed most recently. While the 2019 income tax filing deadline was extended to July 15, taxpayers may want to file sooner to qualify for aid if their income last year was lower than income in 2018. Retirees are eligible for the payments; however those who do not file tax returns due to very low income may need to file a return to receive a relief check. Click here for more.

Here's what's new in our COVID-19 FAQ
  • TEA is developing a Texas Home Learning Model that will provide districts, teachers, parents and students with a comprehensive learning plan that can be started immediately in a student’s home environment. TEA is currently designing the site to include 12 weeks of daily schedules for students in all grades, with both print and digital resource options. This resource is completely optional for districts to use.
  • TEA released a Virtual Discipline and Dress Code guide with suggestions that include overriding a user's ability to share screens, muting user audio, and stopping user video from being accessed by other participants. (Find more info here, under Student issues.)
  • The state's Education Service Centers have compiled regional resources to support instructional continuity in schools.
  • A NOTE OF CAUTION: There are security and privacy concerns surrounding remote services and software, so teachers should read this before setting up a system for online learning.
  • Click here for our list of online teaching resources.

Click here for our FAQ about COVID-19 landing page. It has links to all the questions we've answered with dates noting when the answers were posted or updated, as well as a summary at the top about what's new.
Monthly checks for TRS retirees are not in danger

Teacher Retirement System Executive Director Brian Guthrie visited with Tim Lee, executive director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association, in an online interview last week. Guthrie reassured retirees that their monthly checks are not in any danger.
While the market value of the TRS pension fund has dropped recently in the volatile global investment market, Guthrie is optimistic that it can eventually recover as it did following the 2008 recession. He reassured TRS members that the staff continues to be available for questions and retirement counseling via phone and video conferencing (800-223-8778).  Click here to read more.
OTHER NEWS
New information on Teacher Incentive Allotment and National Board certification

The teacher incentive fund allotment authorized by House Bill 3 provides teacher compensation funding for eligible districts that adopt a local teacher designation system designating a certified classroom teacher as a master, exemplary or recognized teacher for a five-year period. The allotment provides for a range of funding for each designation level, with more funds for teachers serving at rural schools and schools with high levels of socio-economic need.

TEA recently announced that the application window is now open for districts meeting the criteria for Cohorts A, B and C of the Teacher Incentive Allotment as well as a list of rural campuses for the 2019-20 academic year.

The new law includes a provision that beginning in January 2021, eligible National Board Certified Teachers will automatically earn a recognized designation, regardless of whether their district has implemented a local teacher designation system. TEA recently released a Q&A for National Board certification in Texas. It includes information about reimbursement for districts paying the cost of certification for their teachers. Click here to read more.
Earn CPE hours while you're social distancing

If you're looking for ways to earn continuing professional education credits toward your certificate renewal while you're working from home, we have more than 60 hours of free content available to members on our website. Click here to log in then click on Online CPE to watch the videos and print or save certificates. If you have trouble logging in, call 888-879-8282 or email membership@tcta.org for assistance.

TEA also offers many free courses through its Texas Gateway platform.
Save on streaming services, home technology and more

Through our partnership with TicketsatWork, TCTA members can save up to 50% on many items they may need while staying at home and social distancing, including:
  • Home technology: deals on laptops and other electronics
  • Education/enrichment resources, including ebooks and virtual courses
  • Grocery and wine delivery
  • Television streaming services, including Disney+, Showtime and Vudu
  • Health and wellness subscriptions and more
Click here to log in or become a member using company code SWTCTA.
CALENDAR
  • April 12 is Easter. Check out these virtual egg hunts.
  • The State Board of Education is meeting remotely April 14-17.
  • The TRS Board of Trustees is meeting remotely April 16-17.
CONTENT PUBLISHED APRIL 2, 2020 | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
TEXAS CLASSROOM TEACHERS ASSOCIATION
PO BOX 1489 AUSTIN, TX 78767 | 888-879-8282 | TCTA.ORG