Schools can start remotely for up to 8 weeks
The Texas Education Agency announced late last week that districts will have more flexibility to offer remote-only instruction to start the school year in areas where there are high numbers of COVID-19 cases. TEA will allow a four-week transition process during which school systems may temporarily limit access to on-campus instruction. This period can be extended by four more weeks with a school board-approved waiver request. Districts must still provide in-person instruction for students who do not have access to the technology needed for remote learning. Click here to read more.

TEA's new guidelines followed Gov. Greg Abbott's announcement July 17 that the state would allocate $200 million to help districts purchase eLearning equipment, such as routers, hotspots and tablets, to give to students who lack access to technology at home.  Click here to read more.

TCTA appreciates the enhanced flexibility provided in the new state guidance released by TEA; 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. The new guidance still 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 to return to campus.

TCTA is working with state leaders on policies to allow teachers to resign from their contracts for good cause for COVID-related issues, to suspend STAAR testing and the use of A-F grading for districts and campuses for the 2020-21 school year, to ensure that teachers cannot be required to teach from campus during remote-only instruction if it can be done from home, and much more. We’ll continue to keep you updated on our progress.
TCTA answers your questions about COVID-19
TCTA Staff Attorney Julie Leahy answers questions about returning to work amid the pandemic including:
  • Must I report to work in August if I do not agree with my school district’s plan for addressing the pandemic? 
  • Are my concerns about COVID-19 considered “good cause” to resign?
COVID-19 QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Can my district require me to sign a waiver to access all my medical records?

The short answer is that you should not sign any sort of waiver without first consulting with the TCTA Legal Department. Districts can make medical inquiries that are consistent with business necessity. In the context of COVID-19, the district can ask if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or if you have been in contact with anyone with COVID-19. It can also take your temperature and administer a COVID-19 test, if it takes steps to make sure the test is accurate. If you are seeking a reasonable accommodation for a disability, such as the ability to work remotely or be transferred into a position where remote work is available, the district may request medical documentation to substantiate that you have a disability that is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Click here to read more.

We know many of you have concerns and questions about the coming school year, and we strongly encourage members to call us at 888-879-8282 so we can help you navigate situations as they arise. Members also can submit general inquiries through our Ask-a-Lawyer portal. Keep checking our Facebook page and Twitter feed for updates throughout the week, and find answers to common COVID-19 questions in our FAQs.
TEA launching Texas Home Learning Model 3.0 in August

After releasing phases 1 and 2 of the Texas Home Learning Model in the spring, TEA is making available an overview of Phase 3. The optional, freely accessible THL 3.0 will be launched in August for the 2020-21 school year to create multiple home learning models that meet specific district needs and allow for contingency planning during school closures. Similar to earlier phases, the website has comprehensive, digitized, custom learning plans and instructional materials for grades Pre-K through high school. Educators can use fully or in-part these curriculum, technology, and professional development resources to support continuity between remote and in-classroom environments and to help address the “COVID-19 slide.” Click here to read more.
UIL postpones fall sports for schools in Class 5A, 6A

High school athletes who attend smaller public schools can start practicing volleyball and football as soon as Aug. 3. But 5A and 6A schools will have to wait, according to new guidelines released by the University Interscholastic League on Tuesday. UIL has created separate fall sports calendars based on school size as the state continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to read more.
Comptroller says state faces a significant budget deficit

Comptroller Glenn Hegar   informed lawmakers this week  that the revenue estimate for the current biennium, which lasts through August 2021, is $11.5 billion lower than was predicted last October. Federal stimulus funding has helped mitigate the shortfall. Also, local property appraisal values continue to rise, which benefits the state because it will have to pay out less to school districts. There also was an upswing in online sales tax revenues. Taking those factors into account, the current shortfall comes to $4.6 billion . This means that unless circumstances change dramatically or action is taken, the state cannot pay for its current budget. State agencies have been asked to identify budget cuts totaling at least 5% (excluding the foundation school program, TRS contributions, and other key obligations). These projected savings are not included in the comptroller’s figures. Click here to read more.
GOP working on $1 trillion COVID-19 relief package

Republicans in the U.S. Senate are working to finalize a $1 trillion coronavirus relief package that would include another round of $1,200 stimulus checks and additional funding to help schools recover from the pandemic. GOP leaders and the White House agreed Wednesday on key parts of the legislation, which will serve as a starting point for negotiations with Democrats, who already passed their own stimulus bill in the House. Click here to read more.
Make sure you're protected. Renew your membership!  

The 2020-21 school year is sure to be unpredictable. Renew your TCTA membership before classes start.
Encourage your colleagues to join TCTA and you could earn $25 for every two new Active-level members you recruit. Our forms are paperless this year, so ask your co-workers to enter your TCTA member number in the Take 2 box.
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