Education News

August 8, 2022

TSTA survey indicates a record 70 percent of teachers on the verge of quitting as educator morale sinks; political attacks, pandemic, years of state neglect to blame

A record 70 percent of teacher-members surveyed by the Texas State Teachers Association said they were seriously considering leaving the profession as they ended a difficult school year last spring. The number was the highest ever recorded in the teacher moonlighting and morale survey, which has been tracking Texas teachers’ concerns for more than 40 years, and it was a significant jump from the 53 percent who expressed similar feelings the last time the survey was conducted in 2018. Read press release

August 7, 2022

Rural conservatives are skeptical of the Texas GOP’s latest push for school choice.

School choice is a broad term applied to various taxpayer-funded alternatives to sending a child to a local public school. The policy has taken center stage in the governor’s race since Gov. Greg Abbott voiced support for public school alternatives in May. The Republican Party of Texas has listed school choice as a priority for the next legislative session. But in order to enact any school choice policy, the GOP lawmakers must win over rural Republicans, who have historically been against diverting public dollars to private schools. Read more

August 5, 2022

States invest pandemic relief funds into early education workforce

States are investing federal COVID-19 relief funds to build up the early childhood education workforce through increased compensation, mental health supports, professional development and more, according to an analysis of spending from the National Association of State Boards of Education. Read more

August 4, 2022

Gubernatorial rivals dig in on school vouchers fight

A battle over school vouchers is mounting in the race to be Texas governor, set into motion after Republican incumbent Greg Abbott offered his clearest support yet for the idea in May. His Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke, is pursuing the issue, especially in rural Texas, with his campaign running newspaper ads urging voters to “reject Greg Abbott’s radical plan to defund” public schools. Read more

August 3, 2022

Schools aim to address diversity among campus psychologists

While psychologists play a critical role in K-12 schools, supporting students with their mental health, helping to prevent bullying, and promoting conflict resolution between students, there is a mismatch between the demographics of school psychologists and the student populations they serve. According to survey data from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), more than 85% of school psychologists are white, while most K-12 public school students are not. Read more

August 2, 2022

New federal actions to address youth mental health crisis

The Biden-Harris Administration has announced two new actions to strengthen school-based mental health services and address the youth mental health crisis. This week, the Department of Education will begin the process to disburse almost $300m Congress appropriated in FY22 through both the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and the FY22 Omnibus to help schools hire more school-based mental health professionals. Read more

August 1, 2022

Debate begins over how Texas students learn history

The Texas State Board of Education will today hold a public hearing on the process of revamping the standards for what children should learn about the world, the state, and the nation’s past and present. Drafts of the proposed state standards, known as Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TEKS, are available online. Read more

July 26, 2022

Texas’ largest teacher prep company ‘on probation’

The State Board of Educator Certification has formally approved an agreement that gives Texas Teachers of Tomorrow until October 21 to demonstrate that it has corrected its long-standing challenges. This includes not always ensuring educator candidates were matched with qualified teacher mentors. Texas Teachers of Tomorrow is to be required to publicize its probationary status on its website and pay for a monitor to oversee improvements. Read more

Pre-K programs will require much determination to rebound from pandemic

Last week the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs’ Leadership and Project Directors’ Conference agreed that efforts to increase pre-K enrollments and quality programming nationwide will require parent-school-government collaborations, data collection and review, and smarter spending decisions. Federal emergency funding has helped prop up early education programs during the pandemic, but as that funding runs out, states and localities will need to look at creative financing, such as braiding together revenue sources, to build momentum and capacity for early education. Read more 

July 21, 2022

Rural Texas districts switch to four-day weeks to attract teachers

A switch to four-day school weeks is popular among Texas’ smaller school districts, which don’t always have the finances to attract or retain teachers with pay increases. In Texas, schools have to be open for a minimum of 75,600 minutes over a school year, which includes recess and lunch. Districts have control over how these minutes are spread out, giving flexibility to schools to adopt the four-day model. Some are adding time to each of the four remaining school days to make up for the extra day off; others are extending the school year. Read more 

Uvalde superintendent recommends firing police Chief

Uvalde Consolidated ISD Superintendent Hal Harrell is recommending district police Chief Pete Arredondo be fired for his role in the flawed response to the Robb Elementary shooting, according to a school board meeting agenda made public Wednesday. At a special meeting set for 9 a.m. Saturday, the school board will consider terminating Mr. Arredondo “for good cause,” according to the agenda. It will include a public comment period at its start, where members of the community can speak on any topic. Read more 

July 19, 2022

Governor Abbott says Uvalde report is beyond disturbing

Abbott has released a statement describing the findings of a House report into law enforcement responses to the Robb Elementary shooting as beyond disturbing, and that they raise serious concerns about the response that day. “There are critical changes needed as a result of the Texas House’s findings,” his statement read. “With multiple investigations still ongoing, including those by the Texas Senate, FBI, and Texas Rangers, we will begin working with the legislature to develop and implement the necessary changes to improve public safety, school safety, and mental health assessment and treatment.”  Read more

July 15, 2022

TRS Board clears the path for possible COLA legislation

The TRS Board of Trustees voted today to lower the assumed rate of return of their fund to 7%, in a move the system telegraphed after its April meeting. At the same time, the board voted to incorporate an additional $7 billion of deferred gains to keep the fund actuarily sound and on track with the benchmarks that SB 12 set out for the fund three years ago.

Long story short, the fund is actuarily sound, has used its own resources to manage both short-term market volatility and the long-term health of the fund, and has created all the conditions the Legislature will need to finally legislate a cost of living benefit enhancement for retired teachers. Coupled with a rosier-than-expected revenue forecast from the state comptroller, TSTA believes there should be no impediment to enacting a COLA, and will be at the Capitol in the upcoming session advocating for exactly that. 

And this is where you, public education advocate, can be an integral part of this process: make sure you, your friends, family and colleagues are registered and ready to #VoteEducationFirst this November! We need public education allies in the Legislature and the Governor’s Mansion to prioritize this legislation if it is to be enacted. It is our responsibility to elect those leaders.

July 14, 2022

Ed Dept releases final tranche of ARP higher education funds

The US Department of Education has awarded the final $198m in Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) grants. The grants will assist students who attend 244 colleges and universities and provides resources to help these institutions recover from the impacts of the pandemic. Read more

July 13, 2022

Robb Elementary hallway video leaked to media

The Austin American-Statesman has obtained surveillance footage from Robb Elementary showing the moment that the gunman entered the school building on May 24th, before killing 19 students and two teachers. The video, which does not show any shootings, displays in real time how heavily armed officers from multiple responding agencies failed to immediately launch a cohesive and aggressive response to stop the shooter and save more children if possible. Read more

July 12, 2022

Hundreds rally in Uvalde for gun control

Chants of “No justice, no peace,” “Remember their names” and “Not one more child” rang out in Uvalde on Sunday evening as hundreds of protesters, many of them families with young children, marched from Robb Elementary to the town square. Read more

July 11, 2022

Texans have been slow to vaccinate their youngest against COVID, but they’re slightly ahead of the national average

In the two weeks since the federal government allowed emergency use of COVID vaccines for children younger than 5, nearly 32,000 Texas kids in that age group have been vaccinated. That accounts for just over 1% of the state’s youngest residents, a lower rate than doctors had hoped, but faster than the national rate for kids that age — even as Texas deals with a lower-than-average vaccination rate across the state. Read more

July 8, 2022

Civil rights groups warn Texas schools on dress code discrimination

Student dress codes should not discriminate based on race, gender or religion, an array of civil rights groups told Texas superintendents on Thursday. The organizations, including the ACLU of Texas and Texas Appleseed, asked school leaders to update dress codes over the summer to remove any gender-based or discriminatory language. Read more

July 7, 2022

High number of teachers, staffers resigning from Austin schools

According to data from Austin ISD’s Office of Human Capital, more than 1,700 staff members resigned from Austin schools from July 2021 to June 2022, more than in any of the past three school years. Read more

July 6, 2022

NEA calls for curbs on school policing

At its representative assembly this week, the National Education Association adopted a new policy statement calling for an end to the “criminalization and policing of students.” Last year, the nation’s largest teachers’ union established a task force to explore the role of law enforcement in education, leading to the formulation of a policy statement advocating for restorative justice, culturally competent professional development, family and community engagement, and the elimination of inequities in student discipline and the policing of students on campus. Read more

July 5, 2022

Biden administration tightens rules on charter school funding program

Incoming charter schools will have to gather community input and prove they aren’t managed by a for-profit company to receive federal funding under the the US Department of Education’s finalized Charter School Program rules published Friday. Read more

July 1, 2022

Texas orders districts to audit, fix school security issues

State officials on Thursday ordered local school districts across Texas to audit and correct security deficiencies at their schools before the start of the next school year. The Texas Education Agency issued directives requiring the districts “to support the safety and security of public schools.” State lawmakers have targeted school security and mental health issues without further regulating firearms access. Read more

State board rejects ‘involuntary relocation’ as term to describe slavery

A group of Texas educators has proposed to the Texas State Board of Education that slavery should be taught as “involuntary relocation” during second grade social studies instruction. A group of nine educators submitted the idea to the board as part of Texas’ efforts to develop new social studies curriculum. Read more

June 29, 2022

More Texas schools are investing in online student surveillance

Texas school districts lead the country in purchasing contracts with digital surveillance companies. More than 200 of the state’s 1,200 districts statewide use some sort of monitoring software with the most popular being Social Sentinel and Gaggle. The former tracks social media sites used by students, looking for key words such as “shoot” or “kill” in relation to the school district, while the latter monitors only a student’s school-issued laptop and anything associated with a child’s school email account. Read more

June 27, 2022

Congress extends pandemic-era school lunch waivers

Congress on Friday passed a bill to extend a pandemic-era program through the summer that provided free meals to students regardless of income. The $3 billion Keep Kids Fed Act, passed 376-42 by the House on Thursday, was amended and approved by the Senate, and passed in the House by a voice vote the following day. The measure also provides schools with a higher reimbursement rate per meal for the next school year and offers more flexible guidelines for school nutrition programs coping with supply chain problems and short staffing. However, it also reinstates a requirement, suspended during the pandemic, that low-income students above the poverty line pay a reduced price for their meals, rather than getting them free. Read more

June 24, 2022

Department of Education invites comment on proposed Title IX changes

The United States Department of Education has released for public comment proposed changes to help elementary and secondary schools and colleges and universities implement the legislation. The proposed amendments will restore crucial protections for students who are victims of sexual harassment, assault, and sex-based discrimination that was weakened under previous regulations. The regulations will require that all students receive appropriate supports in accessing all aspects of education. Read more 

June 22, 2022

Gun reform bill in Washington is a small step toward public safety; inaction in Austin is appalling

TSTA commends the 64 U.S. senators who voted last night to advance a bipartisan gun reform bill that takes some steps toward keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous people. The legislation doesn’t go far enough, but it begins addressing the plague of mass shootings endangering public safety in our state and country, including our school buildings. Read full statement

June 21, 2022

Officers arrived at Robb Elementary 19 minutes after gunman

A number of police officers stood in a hallway at Robb Elementary School armed with rifles and at least one ballistic shield within 19 minutes of a gunman arriving at the campus, according to documents reviewed by multiple news sources. Authorities have produced the most extensive timeline yet since an 18-year-old gunman armed with an AR-15 walked into the Uvalde school on May 24th. Much of the new information is expected to be presented at the Texas Senate Special Committee to protect All Texans recently formed at Gov. Greg Abbott’s request at hearings today an tomorrow. Read more 

School’s out, and many teachers are calling it quits

Many teachers have packed up classrooms for the last time as schools break for summer, leaving a profession where stresses have multiplied as a national teacher shortage threatens to grow. Some 300,000 public-school teachers and other staff left the field between February 2020 and May 2022, a nearly 3% drop in that workforce, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. And a National Education Association poll conducted this year found 55% of teachers said they would leave education sooner than planned, up from 37% last August. Read more 

June 14, 2022

Texas House Speaker proposes $100m for mental health, school safety programs

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan has proposed redirecting more than $100m in state funding to boost mental health and school safety programs before school begins in the fall. His plan came in response to a $50m request from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Senate, to immediately purchase bulletproof shields for school police departments. Read more

June 13, 2022

Over $170m has gone to defunct charter schools, says Biden admin

Approximately 15 percent of the charter schools that received federal start-up funding either never opened or closed within a few years, according to Assistant US Education Secretary Roberto Rodriguez, even though the schools received $174m. He said the figures underline the need for greater oversight of the federal Charter Schools Program. Read more

June 10, 2022

Abbott asks for new Texas school security chief

Governor Gregg Abbott has written to the Texas Education Agency, directing it to create the new role of Chief of School Safety and Security. The position should be filled, he said, by a school security expert who can be a resource to both districts and the Legislature, as well as someone who can implement safety programs. Read more

June 9, 2022

As House holds gun violence hearing, education groups request funding for existing programs

In the wake of devastating shootings at the Robb Elementary School in Texas, and a Buffalo, New York grocery store, Congressional Democrats yesterday held a hearing on gun violence. The House Oversight and Reform Committee heard from a number of those involved in recent events, including Miah Cerrillo, an 11-year-old in fourth grade who survived the Robb shooting, having covered herself in another student’s blood to trick the shooter into thinking she was already dead. Read more

June 8, 2022

TSTA President interviewed on school safety

On June 7 TSTA President Ovidia Molina was interviewed by Spectrum News on school safety following the killing of nineteen children and two teachers  in Uvalde. She talks about the need for gun reform versus more committees to “study school safety.”  Watch interview here

June 6, 2022

USDA invests $100M in school meal program innovation

The US Department of Agriculture has announced the launch of a $100m Healthy Food Incentive Fund to support school meal programs that “innovate and accelerate” initiatives to improve the nutritional quality of school meals. Read more

June 3, 2022

Texas was building a program to find troubled students and prevent school shootings; it hadn’t reached Uvalde yet

By most accounts, the Uvalde school gunman was the type of person a fledgling $290 million Texas youth mental health program was designed to reach — before his apparent distress and instability could escalate to mass violence.

But it hadn’t reached the shooter by the time the 18-year-old high school dropout — whose adolescent years were reportedly beset by truancy, cruelty to animals and violence at home and at school — walked into Robb Elementary with an assault rifle last week and killed 19 kids and two teachers, health officials said. Read more

June 2, 2022

Abbott instructs safety officials to conduct intruder audits on school grounds

Governor Greg Abbott has instructed state school security and education officials to start conducting “in-person, unannounced, random intruder detection audits on school districts” to find weak access points and see how quickly staff can enter a school building without being stopped. The mandate was one of several the governor laid out in a letter to school security authorities in an effort to ensure district emergency operations plans are solid and school buildings are protected in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting. 

Clay Robison, a spokesperson for the Texas State Teachers Association, raised concerns about whether a person conducting unannounced drills puts themselves at risk to be attacked by someone on campus who sees them as a real threat. Read more

June 1, 2022

We don’t need more committees on school safety

Today the Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina released the following statement:

Nineteen children and two teachers were killed by an assailant with an assault rifle at an elementary school in Uvalde, and Gov. Abbott’s response is to appoint more committees to study school safety. That’s very weak. The victims’ families and all Texans deserve better than that. Read full statement

May 27, 2022

School Safety

Since 2020 the number one cause of death for kids in America is guns and educators are increasingly expected to transform from nurturers to first responders at a moment’s notice. They are having to react and decide the best ways to protect their students based on the circumstances. This is unacceptable and preventable. Read more 

May 24, 2022

TSTA and NEA devastated by loss of lives in the Uvalde school shooting; demand policymakers address gun violence

Texas State Teachers Association Ovidia Molina and National Education Association President Becky Pringle released the following statement:

Our public schools should be one of the safest places for students and educators — but gunshots shattered the physical safety of the school community in Uvalde — and we lost 15 lives, including 14 children and a teacher.

The National Education Association and the Texas State Teachers Association are devastated by the loss of lives, and we stand together during this difficult moment, sending love and healing thoughts to the victims, their families and the entire Uvalde community. We are ready to work together to ensure that students and members get the emotional and physical support they need to begin the healing process.

Read full statement

May 23, 2022

Faculty group calls for universities to protect and expand tenure for librarians to protect against political demands for book censorship

The Texas Faculty Association today urged Texas A&M and other universities to protect and expand tenure for librarians. The request follows a report (seek link below) that a consulting firm has recommended that the Texas A&M University System ask librarians to relinquish tenure or transfer to another academic department to keep it. Read statement

Read report

Are teacher prep programs offering enough math content?

A National Council on Teacher Quality review of more than 1,100 teacher preparation programs that was released last week found that they are devoting more time to math coursework. Undergraduate programs that prepare aspiring elementary teachers now require an average of 19% more time for elementary math coursework than they did in 2014. However, the Washington-based think tank argues that more needs to be done. Read more

May 20, 2022

Texas to resume grading public schools on STAAR results

For the first time since the pandemic began, Texas public schools will be rated based on how students score on the STAAR test. However, for this year only, schools will receive an A-C rating. Districts and schools that score D or F will receive a “Not Rated” label instead. Schools which fall in those bottom tiers will also evade possible sanctions from the Texas Education Agency during the 2022-2023 school year. Read more

May 19, 2022

Most likely TX voters oppose private school vouchers, support higher teacher pay, question charter expansion

The poll, conducted May 3-6 for Texas Parent PAC, a TSTA ally, found that 53 percent of likely Texas voters oppose taxpayer-funded private school voucher programs after learning that vouchers will mean less money for their local public schools. This means most voters don’t buy into Gov. Greg Abbott’s claim that, even with vouchers, public schools will remain “fully funded.” They aren’t fully funded now, and Abbott wants to make vouchers a priority during next year’s legislative session. Read more poll findings

May 18, 2022

Texas librarians face harassment as they navigate book bans

As communities and school districts push for book bans, some Texas librarians say they are nearing their breaking point. For those librarians working at schools and at public libraries, the pressure to keep some challenged books off the shelves is growing. And some Texas librarians say the insults and threats through social media and the added pressure from supervisors to remove books are taking a toll on the profession. Read more

May 17, 2022

Dallas ISD debates sex education that includes expanded lessons on birth control

Dallas ISD leaders are considering new sex education lessons at a time when the way Texas schools teach about gender and sexuality is under a microscope. Students would learn how to prevent pregnancies through contraceptives and about gender identity if school trustees adopt the expanded materials on May 26th. Read more

May 16, 2022

Schools get extra time to spend relief funding on fixing facilities

Schools may get more time to spend federal COVID relief funding on building renovations, the U.S. Department of Education said in a letter Friday. States can apply for extensions to finish planned building upgrades, giving schools until April 2026 to spend the relief funds on facilities improvements, an extension on the previous September 2024 deadline. Read more

May 13, 2022

Inflation takes significant chunks out of educator wage gains

For more than 60 years, the National Education Association has produced a statistical report that compiles public education financial data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Called Rankings & Estimates for short, it is a reliable and often-cited source of data on enrollment, expenditures, staffing and salaries.

“If we want to reverse course and keep qualified teachers in the classroom and caring professionals in schools, then we must increase educator pay across the board and expand access to collective bargaining and union membership for all those working in public education,” said NEA President Becky Pringle in a press statement accompanying the report, which found that teachers are taking home $2,179 less per year, on average, than they did a decade ago, when adjusted for inflation. Read more

May 10, 2022

Governor Abbott pitches school voucher plan for Texas

Abbott said he supports a school voucher measure that would allow students to use government funding to attend private schools or charter schools rather than just their assigned public schools. At a rally in San Antonio, Mr. Abbott said his support for school choice was to help uphold a tradition of “empowering parents” that includes his policies of banning mask mandates on campus and banning “critical race theory” in Texas schools. He also said public schools would remain fully funded throughout the voucher program. Read more 

May 5, 2022

Texas could ‘resurrect’ SCOTUS case requiring states to educate all children

Abbott has said that Texas would consider challenging a 1982 US Supreme Court decision requiring states to offer free public education to all children, including those of undocumented immigrants. “Texas already long ago sued the federal government about having to incur the costs of the education program, in a case called Plyler versus Doe,” Abbott said, speaking during an appearance on the Joe Pags show, a conservative radio talk show. “And the Supreme Court ruled against us on the issue…I think we will resurrect that case and challenge this issue again, because the expenses are extraordinary and the times are different than when Plyler versus Doe was issued many decades ago.” Read more 

May 4, 2022

Educational support professionals are still not being paid a living wage

There are no states in the United States where an education support professional such as a paraprofessional or a cafeteria worker earns enough, on average, to support themselves and one child while living in the state’s most affordable metropolitan area. The National Education Association (NEA) new analysis looked at federal data to provide a picture of all 2.2 million support staff working in public schools. Almost 80% of K-12 education support professionals work full-time, defined as 30 or more hours per week. Read more 

May 3, 2022

143rd Annual TSTA State Convention

TSTA’s annual state convention was held in Houston on April 29-30, 2022 at the Omni Houston Hotel Galleria. This was TSTA’s first in-person convention since 2019. President Ovidia Molina chaired the last two state conventions virtually. This year’s conference theme, Power Through Action, recognizes our accomplishments over the last year and calls us to action going forward. A full accounting of business conducted will be written up in the summer TSTA Advocate. View photos from the convention 

Texas Teacher Retirement Fund gets $435m boost

Texas leaders announced Thursday that the state will direct $435 million of federal COVID-19 money to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. The money, which came from Coronavirus Relief Funds, will be used to offset retired educator healthcare costs related to COVID-19. This will offset insurance premium increases. Teachers will now see an average 0% increase, or even a decrease, on healthcare premiums. Read more 

May 2, 2022

Texas moving towards more rigorous teacher certification exam

The 11 members of the Texas State Board for Educator Certification voted Friday in favor of introducing a new certification exam that could help better prepare new teachers. The Educative Teacher Performance Assessment, also known as the edTPA exam, was developed at Stanford University and requires teachers to submit answers to essay questions and provide a sample lesson plan, a 15-minute video of themselves teaching in the classroom and a report on their students’ progress. The move will mean ditching the old Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities exam, a test of 100 multiple choice questions that has been in use since 2002. Read more

April 25, 2022

Nearly half of teachers had students who didn’t attend class last year

Nearly half of public school teachers in the country reported at least one student during the 2020-21 school year who was enrolled but never showed up for class, according to an updated report first published in March by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The data was pulled from a national representative survey of public school teachers that the GAO contracted Gallup to conduct about their experiences during the 2020-21 school year. Read more 

April 19, 2022

White House seeks to expand early intervention for young children

Increased access to early intervention services for infants and toddlers at-risk of developing delays and disabilities would help the Part C program under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act better serve underrepresented populations. This is according to a full-year 2023 budget proposal justification from the White House. The federal fiscal 2023 budget request allows for a new use of funding under the Part C State Incentive Grant that gives states the option to expand Part C services for at-risk children. Read more 

April 1, 2022

Teachers turn to side hustles to earn extra money

More than half of all K-12 teachers in the United States earn income from sources other than their base teaching salary, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. U.S. teachers with supplemental income made an average of $4,400 beyond their base teaching salary in 2017-18, the most recent time period when this data was collected by NCES. Inadequate pay is a long-standing issue for teachers. Read more 

March 30, 2022

Texas schools won’t lose funding for attendance drops during the pandemic

School districts grappling with low attendance rates because of the pandemic will get help from the state to keep their budgets whole. Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Education Agency announced Tuesday that schools facing pandemic-related attendance drop-offs may be eligible for an adjustment that allows them to drop poorly attended school days from the funding formula. Read more

U.S. Education Secretary calls for teacher shortage solutions

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona spoke at an education conference in San Diego Monday, where he said schools need to use the pandemic’s challenges to change dramatically so they can better serve students. That means more mental health services, more college and career programs, more tutoring for struggling students, and more after-school and summer programs. Read more

March 23, 2022

Teach the Truth campaign aims to battle Texas school book bans

Education and civil rights groups are forming a coalition to contend with book bans in Texas’ public schools. The Teach the Truth campaign aims to educate community members on how to testify at school board meetings, pressure state representatives and organize against attempts to limit what’s taught in classrooms. The groups involved in the new coalition say books with diverse characters are necessary to reflect students’ experiences back to them while also exposing children to different realities. Read more 

Texas health providers suspending gender-affirming care for kids

In response to Republican efforts to limit scientifically-backed gender-affirming care, LGBTQ advocates say hospitals, insurance companies and pharmacies across Texas have already started restricting critical treatment for fear of legal consequences. Health care providers worry they could lose their medical licenses if they don’t abide by Gov. Greg Abbott’s order for investigations into parents and licensed facilities that provide standard medical care to transgender teenagers. Leading medical organizations across the country say gender-affirming care is the best way to provide care for transgender children. It primarily involves choices around name, pronouns and clothing that align with a child’s gender identity. It can eventually include puberty blockers and hormone treatment. Surgical care is rarely, if ever, performed on teenagers. Read more 

Teacher prep programs sound alarm on lower enrollment

As teacher dissatisfaction rates rise and concerns about teacher shortages intensify, colleges of education are sounding the alarm: Enrollment has been steadily declining for the past decade, and the pandemic has likely made things worse. Read more

March 22, 2022

Tougher rules for charter school grants proposed

New proposals from the Biden administration would enact stricter requirements on charter schools seeking federal start-up grants, which are typically about $500,000 per school. The most significant proposed change would affect the for-profit management companies that often run charter schools. Read more

March 18, 2022

Appeals court sides with Texas schools over Abbott on mask mandate

An appellate court on Thursday sided with Texas school districts in their dispute with state officials over mask mandates, which numerous school systems already have lifted as pandemic conditions have eased. The state’s 3rd Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s orders that granted school districts temporary injunctive relief from the enforcement of an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott prohibiting mask mandates. Read more

March 16, 2022

TEA adds 24 teachers to task force studying educator shortages

The Texas Education Agency will add 24 teachers to a task force studying educator shortages across the state, nearly doubling the size of the group that originally included only two teachers. The task force has been charged with helping school districts address ongoing shortages by investigating the challenges, exploring the best options to address them and researching the possibility for flexibility of certification, placement and hiring. When announced, the 28-member group contained 16 superintendents, one assistant superintendent, nine administrators, and two teachers. With the addition of two dozen teachers, the group will grow to 52 individuals, evenly divided between teachers and administrators. The initial lack of teachers on the task force drew criticism from various corners, including union officials, a state PTA group and Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is running for governor. Read more 

President Biden signs 2022 spending bill into law

President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed into law appropriations for fiscal year 2022, providing $76.4 billion for the U.S. Department of Education, the largest increase for federal education programs in a decade. “The bipartisan package makes important strides to meet the needs of the whole child, to support effective teaching and learning, and to strengthen the pipeline for underrepresented teachers,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a statement. The total discretionary spending for the Department of Education for the year is a $2.9 billion increase from 2021 enacted levels, the steepest incline in fiscal year funding since the start of the pandemic. Read more 

March 15, 2022

Texas urged to hike teacher pay

As the Texas Education Agency studies chronic teacher shortages, experts say teachers need better pay, not just easier ways into the profession. Gov. Greg Abbott announced a 28-member task force last week after months of reported staff shortages and recruiting challenges in Texas schools. The group, which is comprised of mostly administrators plus two working teachers, will meet every two months for the next year. The shortages are concentrated in rural areas and in schools that serve students coming from less wealthy families, as well as in more specialized teaching fields including science, technology, engineering and math, as well as special education. Read more 

March 14, 2022

Huge concerns as child nutrition waivers set to end

The one-and-a-half trillion dollar omnibus spending bill heading to President Joe Biden’s desk for approval does not include waivers that give schools flexibility in preparing and distributing food to students, a huge concern for school nutrition and child development nationwide. Read more

March 10, 2022

Task force must propose higher teacher pay

TSTA has issued a press release applauding the Texas Education Agency for assembling, at the governor’s request, a task force to study how to address the teacher shortage. The task force needs to make higher teacher pay a priority, and this means higher pay for all teachers, not so-called “merit pay” for a select few. Read press release 

March 9, 2022

First-year teachers to hit 15-year low

The smallest crop of first-year teachers in at least 15 years is expected, placing just under 2,000 teachers in schools across the country this fall. That’s just two-thirds of the number of first-year teachers in fall 2019, and one-third of the number in 2013. Enrollment in all kinds of teacher preparation programs stood at a little more than half a million in the fall of 2018, the latest federal data show, down 18% from eight years earlier. Read more 

March 8, 2022

Abbott asks for task force to address Texas’ teacher shortage

Governor Greg Abbott has written to the Texas Education Agency directing it to immediately create a task force to develop solutions addressing the raft of teacher vacancies. He said the task force should investigate why these shortages exist, recommend policy changes to the state education agency and consider more flexibility in the teacher certification process. Staff shortage problems existed in Texas schools before the COVID-19 pandemic, but hiring has been made more difficult during that period, particularly in rural areas. Read more 

March 3, 2022

Anti-CRT candidates advance in State Board of Education primary races

Several Republican State Board of Education candidates who ran in opposition of so-called critical race theory in public schools advanced in Tuesday’s GOP primary election. Read more

March 2, 2022

ACLU sues to block Texas from investigating parents of trans youth

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas and Lambda Legal have filed a lawsuit seeking to block a statewide directive that transgender rights advocates describe as an attempt to persecute trans children and their families. The suit, filed on Tuesday, is aimed at stopping the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services from enacting Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders to investigate parents and doctors who provide trans children with gender-affirming care. Read more

March 1, 2022

ACLU urges Granbury school district to apologize for library book removals

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is calling on Granbury ISD to apologize for the removal of more than 100 books, most of which center on LGBTQ topics or discussions of race and identity, from library shelves amid rising partisanship on the district’s school board and political pressure from Republican lawmakers. Read more

February 25, 2022

TSTA and NEA respond to Abbott attack on transgender children

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s ill-conceived and harmful directive to task professionals who work with children — including teachers, nurses, and doctors — to report the parents of transgender minors to state authorities for abuse if it appears that their kids are receiving gender affirming medical care is an affront to the dignity and respect due to both transgender children and the people who care for and about them.

February 24, 2022

Abbott, Paxton play campaign politics with the lives of transgender children; teachers will not play along

In an insensitive campaign gimmick on the eve of next week’s Republican primary, Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton have deliberately misinterpreted the state law on child abuse to wrongly claim that child abuse includes gender affirming treatment for transgender kids. Following Paxton’s contrived legal opinion, which doesn’t carry the weight of law, Abbott has ordered state agencies to investigate reports of such care as “child abuse.” Read more

February 23, 2022

NEA President: pandemic continues to take its toll on teachers

National Education Association (NEA) President Becky Pringle speaks to NPR about school staffing issues, and the burnout that has more teachers thinking about leaving their jobs. The NEA recently surveyed its members, and found that more than half are planning to leave their jobs, due to additional workloads, responsibilities, and parental expectations. Read more 

February 22, 2022

Texas education advocates fear new certification test could affect teacher diversity

Texas has adopted new certification standards for teachers that some education advocates fear will make it more difficult to staff classrooms and find diverse candidates. Before its vote Feb. 11 to move forward with the new requirement, the Board for Educator Certification heard from both sides of the issue with speakers and board members agreeing the current certification test, the Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities, needs improvement. Read more 

February 18, 2022

Patrick attacks academic freedom

The Texas Faculty Association released the following statement today: Despite what Dan Patrick apparently thinks, most people don’t think like him, especially people who value education. Banning critical race theory from universities and limiting tenure are attacks on academic freedom, which is an important part of the process of helping students develop the critical thinking skills they will need for future success. Read more

February 17, 2022

US Senate rejects Cruz push to ban COVID vaccine mandates in schools

The US Senate granted a demand from Texas Senator Ted Cruz Thursday night for a vote to block local school boards from requiring COVID-19 vaccines, but then promptly rejected his proposal. Cruz and a handful of Republican allies had threatened to force a government shutdown if they didn’t get floor votes aimed at ending vaccine mandates. Read more

February 16, 2022

NAACP files federal civil rights complaint against Carroll ISD

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund has filed a federal civil rights complaint against Carroll ISD for alleged failures to protect students from discrimination based on their race, sex or gender identity. Read more

February 15, 2022

Teachers tackle Black History Month under new restrictions

In February, public-school teachers traditionally shape lessons around Black History Month. But this year, educators in several states are handling their classes a bit more gingerly. Since January 2021, 37 states have introduced measures to limit how race and discrimination can be taught in public school classrooms, and 14 have imposed laws or rules to enforce these restrictions. Read more

February 8, 2022

When will Collin College stop attacking the First Amendment?

Today the Texas Faculty Association released the following statement: TFA deplores the Collin College firing of Michael Phillips, the fourth professor in the past year whose contract was not renewed simply because faculty members chose to exercise their First Amendment right of free speech, including comments about safety precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more

February 7, 2022

Biden inches back toward Obama-era school nutrition standards

The Biden administration has issued a new rule asking schools to start meeting nutrition standards that were strengthened at the urging of former first lady Michelle Obama but which were suspended during the pandemic. Schools have struggled to procure more nutritious options. The overall goal is to help schools stabilize their nutrition programs, many of which have been losing money as food and staffing costs have soared. In the meantime, USDA is planning a total reboot of nutrition standards for school meals that will likely not take effect until the 2024-25 school year. Read more 

February 3, 2022

SBOE approves new SBEC rules on educator contract abandonment

The State Board of Education (SBOE), at their meeting last week, approved the new educator contract abandonment rules approved in December by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). The rules, adopted to comply with a new state law, will give SBEC greater discretion in setting the penalties for contract abandonment cases. 

TSTA was closely involved in getting the new state law and new rules adopted, and we submitted testimony to the state board. We believe the new rules maintain SBEC flexibility, honor educator protections and professionalism and center the needs of students. For more information on these new rules, check out our new flier

February 1, 2022

Texas Dems want to cancel STAAR test due to COVID surge

An increasing number of Texas Democrats are calling for the cancellation of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, tests this year, saying COVID-19 rates among students and school staff make the test dangerous and pointless. In a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Education Agency, State Sen. José Menéndez questioned the reliability of the test scores. “We definitely have a very real and very valid reason. Students have been too sick to go to school, teachers have been too sick to go to school. There has been a lack of substitute teachers. What are you hoping to get?” said Menéndez. “What is the value of putting everybody through this, especially if we are still going through a surge?” Read more 

January 27, 2022

Aldine ISD cancels Friday classes for three weeks to combat teacher burnout

Aldine ISD has approved a plan to cancel classes for the next three Fridays. All campus-based staff will report to their school, while students will not be required to make up the three days. The district’s move comes centered around the desire to give students a better learning experience amid issues with staff shortages and the pandemic. Read more

January 25, 2022

Texas teachers union calls out Abbott’s “Parental Bill of Rights”

The governor’s plan would allow parents more access to course materials and curriculum, and let parents to decide whether their child must repeat a course or grade after failing. The proposed legislation would also blacklist any teacher convicted of giving minors access to “obscene” content.

This all comes as Abbott has limited how topics like racism or sexism can be taught in schools, by championing bans on so-called “critical race theory.” The governor has also called on school boards to investigate books he’s called obscene, many of which deal with issues of gender or sexuality. Read more

January 24, 2022

New Texas teachers leaving the job most after their first year, study says

A recent study found new teachers in Texas are leaving the job after their first year at an alarming rate. It’s an issue education leaders say is adding to staff shortages that districts are already facing from the pandemic. The 2020-2021 Texas Teacher Workforce Report found over a 10-year period that the biggest drop-off in retention was from the first year to the second. The report also found from 2011 to 2019 average teacher salary in Texas had little to no increase at all. “Unfortunately, we’re seeing a lot of burnout in teachers in their first year of teaching,” said Jackie Anderson, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers. “We’re going to really have to look revamping education and what’s expected and required.” She says the shortages directly affect the classroom: “Bottom line of this our students are suffering.” Read more

January 21, 2022

Round Rock students stage walkout to demand more COVID protections

Students in schools across Round Rock ISD staged a walkout on Thursday to protest what they say is a lack of COVID-19 safety protocols. About 60 students at the Round Rock and Cedar Ridge high schools gathered outside of the schools to emphasize that they do not feel safe in school and want district officials to tighten mask requirements, resume contact tracing in secondary schools, add more COVID-19 testing sites and expand outdoor eating — or offer a virtual learning option. Read more

January 20, 2022

Fort Worth looks to Mexico for teacher recruitment

Fort Worth ISD is targeting educators in Mexico in its ongoing recruitment efforts to add bilingual teachers to the district, with a virtual job fair for staff in Mexico City. The job fair informed participants about the process to become a certified teacher in Texas, and offered an overview of the district and the city of Fort Worth. “We have to think outside the box when it comes to our recruitment efforts,” Fort Worth chief talent officer Raúl Peña said. “If they are motivated and passionate about teaching, we want those prospective teachers residing in Mexico City to know FWISD is hiring.” Read more

January 18, 2022

Transgender student athlete law goes into effect

Texas House Bill 25, which requires that student athletes play on sports teams that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificate, and the certificate athletes present must have been issued near the time of birth, goes into effect today. Read more

January 14, 2022

Schools, districts struggle with COVID-related staff shortages

Parents, students and school employees across Texas are facing disruptions as some school districts temporarily close or alter operations amid the latest COVID-19 surge. The virus is infecting teachers, bus drivers and other staff members at unprecedented rates that may continue to rise, further complicating school functions. Read more

January 10, 2022

TEA releases new quarantine guidance for school staff

The Texas Education Agency has released new quarantine guidance for school staff who have COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who does. School employees may return when, if symptomatic, at least five days have passed since symptom onset and fever free, and other symptoms have improved, and for those with no symptoms, at least five days after the day they tested positive. Read more

January 7, 2022

CDC updates isolation, quarantine guidelines for K-12 schools

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its COVID-19 quarantine and isolation guidance for K-12 schools Thursday, aligning the recommendations with the agency’s guidelines for the general public. It also expands its recommendations for screening testing, and urges canceling or going virtual with some extracurricular and sports activities in order to protect in-person learning. Read more

January 6, 2022

US Education Secretary on push to keep schools open

NPR’s Ailsa Chang talks with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona about the surge of the Omicron variant, and the Biden administration’s push to keep schools open. While acknowledging the challenges of in-person learning, such as ensuring properly-ventilated classrooms, and using school building spaces differently, is not ideal, it is preferable to having children learning from home. He also reassures parents that, provided schools follow mitigation strategies properly, their children have the best opportunity to succeed in the classroom, with minimal risk to their health. Read more 

December 16, 2021

Almost all students now back to full-time, in-person learning

Ninety-nine percent of public school fourth- and eighth-grade students are learning in person, full-time, despite roughly one-third of schools offering remote learning to at least some students. This is based on the first batch of data released through the Education Department’s new School Pulse Panel. The portal displays data collected by the National Center for Educational Statistics, the research arm of the department’s Institute of Education Sciences, which aims to deliver more timely and standardized information about the pandemic’s impact on K-12 schools in the U.S. Read more 

December 9, 2021

Supreme Court hears arguments on state funds for religious schools

The Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in Carson v Makin, a case regarding Maine’s public education system. Although Maine will pay to send some children to private schools whose education matches that of a Maine public school, the state will not pay for religious education. Parents who want Maine to foot the bill for their children’s religious schooling claim this refusal violates their religious liberty and sued. In Wednesday’s hearing, a majority of the court’s justices indicated they could be on the side of the parents, suggesting that the Maine program amounts to simple discrimination against religion. Read more

December 8, 2021

School staffing shortages can’t wait, Cardona asserts

United States Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona acknowledges that many schools are still experiencing shortages of critical staff, and insists that federal officials know that many school staff are experiencing “burnout” as a result of the pandemic. The Department of Education is ensuring that schools know they can use American Rescue Plan and other relief funds to increase wages by offering hiring bonuses for teachers and support staff, and provide permanent salary increases or premium pay, Cardona says, while his administration is also committed to working with states and school districts to find “long-term solutions” that help educators receive the compensation they deserve, including through a proposed historic increase in funding for Title I schools. Read more 

December 6, 2021

Communities of practice to accelerate learning, support kindergartners

The US Department of Education has introduced a new community of practice that aims to assist states and school districts plan and pay for evidence-based programs to help accelerate learning for students. A second community of practice will investigate strategies to specifically help kindergartners prepare for early school success and learning recovery. This effort will address social-emotional development, family engagement, access disparities to in-person learning and dips in school enrollments. The communities of practice aim to help school systems build capacity to implement interventions so the efforts best address students’ needs. Read more 

December 2, 2021

Texas ban on mask mandates in public schools back in place

A federal appellate court has temporarily restored Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order prohibiting mask mandates in schools. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals restored the governor’s executive order on November 24th after Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed an earlier decision by a federal district in Austin that allowed schools to enact mask mandates to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Read more 

December 1, 2021

Unlike some of their parents and political leaders, the kids can handle the truth

Former Education Commissioner Michael Williams told the State Board of Education to “just tell the truth” when it starts rewriting social studies curriculum standards, despite a new law designed to make telling the whole truth difficult. Read blog

State Senator Larry Taylor says he won’t run for reelection

State Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), who helped write the law to overhaul school funding in Texas, will not seek reelection. Mr. Taylor, chair of the Senate Education Committee, was a key player in the 2019 school finance overhaul that lawmakers counted as a top achievement that session. Read more

November 29, 2021

Efforts to toughen teacher evaluations show limited impact

New research shows that efforts to strengthen teacher evaluations had no impact on student test scores or educational attainment. The research is the latest evaluation of a significant push between 2009 and 2017, spurred by federal incentives, philanthropic investments, and a nationwide drive for accountability in K-12 education, to implement high-stakes teacher evaluation systems in nearly every state. Read more

November 18, 2021

DOE opens inquiries into Carroll ISD

The US Department of Education is investigating three complaints of discrimination against students in the Carroll Independent School District. The district has recently attracted national attention for several of its decisions regarding the handling of school programs, books and curricula on race, gender and sexuality. Read more

November 5, 2021

Doing serious harm to the institution of public education, all for political gain

First, voting rights came under attack by the political powers that be in Texas, and now, another crucial element of our democracy – public education – has become a major target. The attack on public education began in earnest with the enactment of the so-called critical race theory law to whitewash the teaching of racism and discourage classroom discussions of other issues that make many conservative voters uncomfortable. Read blog 

October 26, 2021

TSTA member selected as Bilingual Teacher of the Year

Luz Alvarez-Sims, a fourth grade teacher in Austin at Travis Heights Elementary, was named the 2021 Bilingual Education Teacher of the Year by the Texas Association for Bilingual Education. Alvarez-Sims, a 14-year veteran, began by teaching bilingual classes in middle school for six years then moved to teach fourth-grade, which is where she’s stayed since. Read more 

TSTA: Rep Krause’s letter smacks of a witch hunt

TSTA President Ovidia Molina made the following statement: Rep. Krause’s letter demanding that school superintendents provide him with lists of books dealing with certain subjects on their school bookshelves is disturbing and political overreach into the classroom. Read more

October 22, 2021

TSTA member is the new Texas Teacher of the Year

Ramon Benavides, a biology teacher from Ysleta ISD in El Paso and member of the Ysleta Teachers Association, was named the 2022 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year. He also was chosen to represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition, which also gives him the title of 2022 Texas Teacher of the Year. Read more 

October 21, 2021

White House details COVID vaccination plans for 5-11 year-olds

The White House has released details of its plan to roll out COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11, pending US Food and Drug Administration authorization in the next few weeks. The plan includes smaller doses, more-flexible supplies, and efforts to provide children’s vaccines at locations families trust, such as schools, pediatrician’s offices, and community health providers. Authorization of the smaller doses will open up eligibility to about 28 million children who were previously too young to be vaccinated. Read more 

October 20, 2021

NEA Foundation Announces 2022 Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence Recipients

The NEA Foundation is honoring educators for community-building and outstanding achievements during a challenging year through the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence. One of the award winners is Adriana Abundis Alonso, a TSTA member and a master educator at Sidney Lanier High School in San Antonio. To learn more about the 2022 awardees, visit the NEA Foundation website.

Read press release

October 19, 2021

Texas passes sports ban for transgender students

Lawmakers in Texas passed a bill Sunday that bans transgender public-school students from competing in interscholastic sports leagues that are designated for a gender other than the one listed on their birth certificates. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign the bill, after adding it to the agenda of a special legislative session intended to address redistricting. Read more 

October 18, 2021

Where was Governor Abbott when Holocaust denial became an issue in Carroll ISD?

Governor Abbott was silent when a school administrator in Carroll ISD, overreacting to the new, so-called “critical race theory” law that Abbott signed. The administrator told teachers to put books with “opposing” views of the Holocaust – books by Holocaust deniers – in their classroom libraries. Read blog 

October 15, 2021

NEA and TSTA respond to Texas school district official advising educators to offer books with an “opposing” perspective when discussing the Holocaust in public schools

NBC News reported that Carroll ISD, advised teachers during a training that they should provide books with an “opposing” view when discussing the Holocaust. The training took place several days after a parent pressured the Carroll school board into disciplining a teacher for using a book the parent found offensive. Read press release 

October 12, 2021

Vulnerable children are left to suffer 

Don Huffines, who is challenging Governor Abbott in next year’s Republican primary, may have stooped to a new low, bordering on cruelty, when he attacked the important, sometimes life-saving services the state has provided LGBTQ youth in foster care. Read blog

October 6, 2021

TSTA statement on Timberview school shooting

Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina released a statement today on the shooting at Timberview High School in Arlington. Four people were reported injured, including a 15-year-old boy in critical condition, in the latest outbreak of gun violence at a school. As always, we offer our thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families and the Mansfield ISD community. Read news release 

Keeping the Promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Thousands of educators from across the country have taken action to demand that the US Department of Education fix the broken Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. We have been heard: The US Department of Education has announced they are overhauling the PSLF program. Join the events below to learn what these reforms mean for you and how we can continue to advocate for affordable higher education for all.

You are invited to join a special telephone town hall with Secretary Cardona, Under Secretary James Kvaal, NEA President Becky Pringle, and AFT President Randi Weingarten to learn what the PSLF reforms will mean for you. The event will be today, October 6, at 6:15 p.m. ET.

On Thursday, October 7, at 7:00 p.m. ET join student debt experts at the NEA for a Q&A on the PSLF reforms and an inside look at what is next for the student debt movement. Ask NEA your questions during our PSLF briefing. NEA experts are ready to answer your questions about the PSLF reforms. Join us to explore how these updates affect the larger movement around student debt cancellation. Read more 

October 5, 2021

Civics education hasn’t failed us; well-educated politicians have

Some prominent people continue to blame an alleged failure of civics education in our schools for the partisan gridlock and turmoil that is increasingly paralyzing our federal government and spreading to many states, including Texas, as well. That is not the main problem though. Read blog 

September 27, 2021

Virtual charters are getting a windfall, students are getting shortchanged

Virtual charter schools claim to specialize in education, but mostly they specialize in making profits with our tax dollars, and the pandemic is proving to be a windfall for them. Or, as one virtual charter executive put it, a “lasting tail wind.” Read blog

September 22, 2021

TSTA supports federal investigation of Texas mask policy

TSTA applauds the federal investigation of the dangerous impact that Governor Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates poses for students with disabilities, who are particularly vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. All of our students, school employees and their communities are at risk. Barely a month into the new school year, the number of COVID cases reported in Texas schools has almost exceeded the number for all of last year. Read news release 

September 21, 2021

Pfizer says COVID vaccine safe for elementary-age kids

Pfizer announced on Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine works for children aged five to 11, and that it will be seeking authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this age group by the end of the month. For elementary school-aged kids, Pfizer tested a much lower dose, a third of the amount that’s in each shot given now. Yet after their second dose, children ages five to 11 developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults. Pfizer said it studied the lower dose in 2,268 kindergartners and elementary school-aged kids. Read more 

September 20, 2021

The redistricting starts today

In theory, the 2021 cycle of redistricting is about revising district boundaries to evenly distribute Texas’ fast-growing population and ensure voters have fair representation. But with the mapmaking in the hands of politicians, and their individual electoral survival at stake, it has also become an exercise in political rigging. That exercise will formally begin today when the Legislature convenes for a special legislative session to redraw the state’s maps for Congress, the Texas House and Senate and the State Board of Education to account for a decade’s worth of growth recorded in the 2020 census. Read more

September 17, 2021

District judge blocks Round Rock mask mandate

A state district judge in Williamson County has temporarily blocked Round Rock ISD from enforcing its mask mandate, according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who sued the school district. In a tweet Thursday night, Paxton’s office declared “Another WIN!” in its legal fight against school districts that have defied Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive orders banning schools from requiring masks. Paxton sued Round Rock along with Elgin and other school districts with mask mandates last Friday. Read more 

September 15, 2021

Texas sues nine more school districts over mask mandates

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has announced another wave of lawsuits against school districts over their masking policies, but one of them says it doesn’t even require face coverings. Midway ISD is among nine that Paxton announced on Tuesday that he is suing for allegedly defying Abbott’s executive order banning public schools and local governments from enacting local mask mandates. However, the district says it has been unable convince the attorney general’s office that it has no such mandate in place. Under Midway’s virus protocol, campuses can issue 10-day “mask directives” that encourage mask-wearing on the premises if virus transmission reaches a certain level, but doesn’t require it. In addition to Midway, Paxton announced lawsuits against Diboll, Honey Grove, La Vega, Longview, Lufkin, McGregor, Paris and Waco, on top of the six districts he announced action against last week. Read more

September 14, 2021

White House launches Hispanic education initiative

President Joe Biden signed an executive order intended to coordinate efforts across the federal government to improve educational and economic outcomes for Hispanics on the eve of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona will serve as chairman of the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics; it will focus on policies that address “systemic causes” of challenges faced by students, improve their access to high-quality teachers, and address racial disparities in education funding, among other issues.  Read more 

George W. Bush is no historian, but he knows something about terrorists, foreign and domestic

Is it too much of a stretch to fear that someday, if Trumpism continues to control the GOP, that similar ideological efforts will be made to require teachers to describe the Jan. 6 Capitol rioters as patriotic defenders of the American way of life? Read blog 

September 13, 2021

FDA vaccine chief hopeful younger kids can get shots this year

The Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine chief said Friday the agency will rapidly evaluate COVID-19 vaccinations for younger children as soon as it gets the needed data. Dr. Peter Marks said he is “very, very hopeful” that vaccinations for five- to 11-year-olds will be underway by year’s end, and possibly sooner, with Pfizer expected to release study results at the end of the month. Read more 

September 10, 2021

Ed Dept announces grants to support districts facing state penalties over masks

The US Department of Education has launched Project SAFE (Supporting America’s Families and Educators), a grant program established to support districts penalized by states over COVID-19 prevention strategies. The program is expected to use Education Department funding provided by the Every Student Succeeds Act under Title IV, Part F, School Safety National Activities for applicable districts where funding has been withheld by state leaders.

“We should be thanking districts for using proven strategies that will keep schools open and safe, not punishing them,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a release. “We stand with the dedicated educators doing the right thing to protect their school communities, and this program will allow them to continue that critical work of keeping students safe.” Read more

September 8, 2021

Two Texas teachers die, and a small town rethinks masks

Masks are now mandatory for students and staff in the Connally Independent School District, on the outskirts of Waco. The decision, made late last week, followed the two teacher deaths and a surge of cases in the community. Read more

September 1, 2021

Texas Senate sends virtual learning bill to the governor

Less than a week before the special session ends, Texas lawmakers sent a bill to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk that would expand and fund virtual learning, but would exclude students who failed their STAAR exams. Opponents of the long-term establishment of virtual learning say that students learn best in classrooms and cite declining standardized test scores last school year, especially in districts that had most of their instruction online. Read more 

August 31, 2021

Texas House cuts students who failed STAAR tests out of virtual education funding

Students who failed their STAAR exams and racked up lots of unexcused absences could be excluded from virtual learning programs under a legislative proposal approved by the Texas House. For schools to get funding for virtual students, the students must have passed all their STAAR exams or equivalent assessments the previous year, earned a C grade or higher in foundation curriculum courses and have no more than 10% unexcused absences the previous year. Read more 

August 30, 2021

Judges back schools in mask mandate lawsuits

State judges in Florida and Texas on Friday sided with school districts, ruling that those states’ governors exceeded their authority in barring officials from introducing mask mandates in schools. In Texas, District Judge Catherine A. Mauzy ruled that challengers are likely to prevail on their claims against Gov. Greg Abbott, who “is not authorized to declare by executive fiat that school districts are prohibited from requiring individuals to wear face coverings.” Read more 

August 13, 2021

NEA announces support for vaccination or testing for educators

The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, has offered its support to policies that would require all teachers to get vaccinated against COVID or submit to regular testing. “It is clear that the vaccination of those eligible is one of the most effective ways to keep schools safe,” NEA president Becky Pringle said in a statement. Read more

August 12, 2021

Cardona raises COVID policy concerns with Governor Abbott

Miguel Cardona, US Secretary of Education, said he’s spoken with Abbott and shared his opinion on Texas’ COVID-19 policies. Cardona sat down for a virtual webinar with the National Press Foundation on Wednesday to discuss several topics related to the start of school. Abbott has repeatedly said that he encourages personal responsibility and does not believe governmental entities should force Texans to wear a mask. Read more 

August 11, 2021

Judge grants temporary block on school mask mandate ban

A Texas judge on Tuesday approved a temporary restraining order preventing the enforcement of Governor Abbott’s ban on mask mandates in schools, just hours after leaders from San Antonio and Bexar County filed a challenge. Bexar County Civil District Court Judge Toni Arteaga approved the order following an hourlong hearing Tuesday, allowing county and city school officials to require masks in public schools until an additional decision is made on Abbott’s executive order on Monday. Read more 

August 9, 2021

TSTA applauds Dallas ISD for defying governor and requiring masks in schools

TSTA applauds the Dallas Independent School District for putting the health and safety of its students, employees and local community first and requiring mask use in its schools. We urge other school districts to join Dallas ISD and ignore Gov. Abbott’s politically motivated order prohibiting mask mandates. Read press release 

August 6, 2021

How Educators and School Staff Can Talk About COVID-19 Vaccine

We know that the way to end the pandemic is by having as many people as possible choose to get vaccinated. Join this virtual training on Tuesday, August 10 at 6:00 p.m., EDT. Educators and school staff can help students and their caregivers find credible vaccine information and get the facts to respond to misinformation. Read more and RSVP 

TEA releases new COVID-19 public health guidelines

The Texas Education Agency has released new health guidelines for public schools, offering districts across the state some much-sought flexibility amid rising infections that have area parents and staff nervous about the start of school in the coming weeks. The new guidance now allows up to 20 days of remote instruction to be counted as attendance for funding purposes. Schools can apply for a waiver for additional distance learning time if needed in certain circumstances. The guidelines also require districts to bar students who test positive or are sick with COVID from attending class in person. Read more 

August 5, 2021

Texas lawmaker asks AG to consider constitutionality of critical race theory

A Republican lawmaker is asking the Texas attorney general to issue an opinion on whether “anti-racist” teachings in public schools, universities and state agencies are unconstitutional. Such an interpretation could potentially influence efforts by schools, police departments and other public agencies to address racism, unconscious bias and inequities in their systems. Rep. James White, the only Black Republican House member, sent a letter this week to Attorney General Ken Paxton asking him to weigh in on the ongoing political battle over the idea of critical race theory – an academic framework that probes the way policies and laws uphold systemic racism. Read more 

August 3, 2021

Kickstart your new school year with a professional support webinar

NEA Teacher Quality is presenting a series of webinars to support our members as they prepare for this new, post-pandemic school year. The kickoff webinar in on August 9! Read more and register

July 30, 2021

President Biden calls for full school reopenings in fall

President Joe Biden has called for all schools to open this fall for in-person learning. He pointed to funding through the $1.9T American Rescue Plan from March that allowed schools to implement improved ventilation systems, and he noted teachers were prioritized through the Department of Education when COVID-19 shots first became widely available in the spring, with almost 90% of educators and school staff now vaccinated. “We can and we must open schools this fall, full-time,” he said. “It’s better for our children’s mental and emotional well being, and we can’t afford another year out of the classroom. Every school should be open, and we’re giving them the tools to be able to do so safely.” Read more

July 28, 2021

CDC recommends universal masking in schools

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing the highly transmissible Delta variant, recommended Tuesday that K-12 schools adopt universal masking for teachers, staff, students and visitors regardless of vaccination status. The move marks a change from CDC guidance in May that said vaccinated people no longer needed to mask or physically distance in most indoor and outdoor settings.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said this change is “not a welcomed piece of news” and “was not a decision that was taken lightly,” noting only 30% of children 12-17 are currently fully vaccinated. The new recommendations say children do not need to mask when they head outdoors for recess or physical education, for example, unless they will be standing in a crowd for long periods of time. That also puts the health agency in line with the American Academy of Pediatrics, which last week recommended that everyone over the age of two wear masks in school.

TSTA is calling on Governor Abbott to urge him to rescind his shortsighted blanket prohibition on mask mandates he ordered in mid-May. This is a decision best left to the communities and districts most impacted by the pandemic.

July 27, 2021

TSTA calls on Abbott to allow school districts to require masks when students go back to school

The Texas State Teachers Association calls on Governor Greg Abbott to withdraw his prohibition on mask mandates and allow individual school districts to require mask use in their facilities if local officials believe masks will help protect the health of their communities as schools reopen for the fall semester. Read full statement

July 26, 2021

Austin schools to offer virtual learning for kindergarten through 6th grade

Austin ISD will offer a virtual option for students in kindergarten through sixth grade this fall, district officials told staff in an email Monday afternoon. The goal is still to have the “bulk” of students take advantage of “face-to-face learning,” but the district wanted to add the virtual option in response to community concerns, said Anthony Mays, the district’s chief officer of schools. He said the virtual option “will be for a limited number of students that may not be eligible for the COVID vaccine.” Further details will be released by the end of the week. Austin is the second Central Texas school district to add a last-minute virtual option after previously canceling online classes due to a lack of state funding. Last Thursday, the Round Rock school district announced it will offer a virtual option for the fall semester “to allow time for vaccine approval for children under 12.”

July 20, 2021

Texas judge orders stop to granting of new DACA applications

A federal judge in Texas has ruled that the DACA program, which allows certain immigrants to temporarily avoid deportation and receive renewable work permits, is illegal. He ordered the Biden administration to stop granting new applications. The ruling stems from a 2018 lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and eight other states against the federal argument. Read more

July 19, 2021

Relief for retired educators a hostage to governor’s efforts to dumb down Texas

Governor Greg Abbott claims he wants to help retired educators by putting an extra pension check on the special session’s agenda, but he would have more credibility with the education community were he not so intent on dumbing down Texas. Many retired educators are suffering financially. The average Teacher Retirement System annuitant receives just $2,118 per month, and 31 percent of them receive less than $1,000. Read blog

July 16, 2021

Anti-critical race theory bill heads to Senate

Texas teachers and students denounced a more strict anti-critical race theory bill as censorship and anti-civics education at a Senate committee hearing yesterday. The special session proposal builds off a bill Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law last month that seeks to ban critical race theory from the classroom. Read more

July 13, 2021

Racism, not teaching about it, produces trauma

The right-wing campaign to suppress what children are taught about racism and limit efforts to promote diversity in our public schools was a topic of discussion at the Conservative Political Action Committee’s gathering in Dallas, and truth was an optional agenda item. Read blog

July 12, 2021

State lawmakers file new critical race theory bills for special session

Texas lawmakers have filed at least three bills targeting how racism, current events and the country’s founding principles are taught in K-12 schools. This includes a senate bill that would strip out upcoming requirements that students learn white supremacy is morally wrong and study particular writings by women and people of color. Senate Bill 3 features more changes than two House bills that have been filed for the special legislative session that began Thursday. The legislation comes after Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill from this year’s regular legislative session that restricts how current events and America’s history of racism can be taught in Texas schools. Read more

July 9, 2021

NEA statement concerning the CDC’s updated school guidance for the fall

NEA President Becky Pringle released the following statement in response to the Center for Disease Control’s new guidance for school openings in the fall: “As the National Education Association has consistently said, there is no substitute for in-person learning, and we look forward to all students returning to school in the fall. The CDC’s latest guidance provides an important roadmap for reducing the risk of COVID-19 in schools. And it is up to all of us in communities across the country to make it possible for all school buildings to be fully open, to stay open, and for all students, staff, and families to remain healthy.” Read full statement

July 8, 2021

Special session convenes today; agenda includes several education issues

A voter suppression bill, which TSTA opposes, is the main reason Governor Greg Abbott called the session, but on Wednesday, the governor added several other items, including education-related bills, to the session’s call, or agenda.

One education issue, as we anticipated, will be another effort to suppress how educators can teach about the role of racism in our history and culture. Ignoring opposition from TSTA and other education and community groups, the Legislature enacted HB3979 in the regular session to address this issue. It is not clear what else Abbott wants lawmakers to do, but we suspect he will seek revisions to the new law to make it even worse.

In addition to imposing restrictions on classroom discussions about racism and other controversial events, HB3979, which goes into effect Sept. 1, will prohibit teachers from awarding students’ course credits for participating in many political or advocacy activities. These restrictions threaten to interfere with the development of critical thinking skills so important to a student’s future success.

This attack on education, which also is being waged in many other states, is a coordinated effort by the right-wing to divide communities along racial lines for political purposes. TSTA will continue to fight for honesty in education.

On a more positive note, the governor also added a 13th check for retired educators to the session’s agenda, after similar proposals died during the regular session. A 13th check would give some relief to retirees on limited incomes, but a long-overdue cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, would be better.

Here are other education-related issues the governor has directed lawmakers to consider in the special session:

  • Legislation similar to SB1109 from the regular session, which would require middle and high schools to provide age-appropriate instruction about dating violence, domestic violence and child abuse. SB1109 was approved with strong bipartisan support, but Abbott vetoed it because it did not include a provision allowing parents to opt their children out of this instruction. He asked lawmakers to pass the bill again with the opt-out provision.
  • Legislation identical to SB29 from the regular session, which would prohibit transgender students from participating in school sports on teams matching the gender with which they now identify. They would have to compete on teams matching their sex identification at birth. This controversial bill died during the regular session.
  • Property tax relief, which could have an impact on school district budgets.

July 7, 2021

Feds release remaining stimulus funds to Texas

Earlier this year, the US Department of Education released two thirds of the funding provided to state education agencies through the American Rescue Plan, the third round of federal stimulus funding intended to aid in pandemic recovery. The final third of the funding was contingent on detailed plans from the states on how they are using and plan to use ARP funds to safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the needs of students, including by equitably expanding opportunities for students disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Texas is part of the the first cohort of seven state plans to be approved by the DoE, clearing the way for more than $4 billion in additional funding to flow to the state. Texas indicated to the DoE that it plans to use the funding to address the academic impact of lost instructional time for Texas students, and plans to offer high-dosage tutoring, high-quality instructional materials, and job-embedded professional learning to help address the academic impact of lost instructional time. Read more

July 6, 2021

Going back to school

Remote learning won’t be an option for many parents in the fall, as the Texas Education Agency pushes districts toward returning to in-person learning citing data showing that it leads to better learning outcomes than remote instruction. But the return to in-person learning is not a simple transition for some parents — particularly parents of students of color — after a year in which they say their children reaped some benefits from remote-only learning.

As of January, about 56% of Texas students had returned to on-campus instruction, including 75% of white students, about 53% of Black students, 49% of Hispanic students and 31% of Asian students. Experts say it’s necessary to consider the intersection of circumstances that could lead to such rates. Read more

June 30, 2021

Pandemic ‘widened in-person learning disparities,’ CDC warns

New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the pandemic widened disparities in full-time, in-person learning between white and minority students. While in-person learning increased for all school children in 2021, it increased the most for white students. In-person learning increased to 74.6% for whites from January 2021 to April 2021, to 63.4% for blacks, 58.9% for Hispanics, and 56.9% for all other races. Though the study had a number of limitations, including sampling primarily from larger school districts, researchers found that students in the South had the highest rate of in-person learning, on average, at 62.5%. Read more

June 23, 2021

Special session announced

A special section of the Texas Legislature will start July 8, Governor Greg Abbott said Tuesday. Abbott’s office has not said what legislative priorities will be included on the special session agenda, only that such items “will be announced prior to the convening of the special session.”

But Abbott previously said he plans to ask state lawmakers to work on two elections and bail bills that died late on the last day legislators were in session, after House Democrats walked out of the chamber. More recently, Abbott said the agenda will also include further restricting the teaching of critical race theory in Texas public schools, which refers to an academic discipline that explores the role racism plays in institutions and structures of governance. Read more

June 22, 2021

More school superintendents opting to step down

More and more school superintendents are leaving their posts, far more than in a typical year, a result of the extraordinary challenges of keeping kids learning after schools closed in spring 2020 and serving as crisis managers for months on end while dealing with pandemic pressures on their own families.

The turnover this year has been unprecedented, superintendents say, with the usual job responsibilities and tensions exacerbated by crisis management and debates with communities and school boards over when and how to reopen schools during the pandemic. Conflicts over equity and education that addressed racial issues also boiled over, with superintendents often feeling the brunt of the disputes. Read more

June 18, 2021

HB3979 was enacted to whitewash racism, not address critical race theory

Critical race theory is not the reason the legislative majority enacted HB3979, the new anti-education law, despite what Governor Greg Abbott and the law’s other supporters claim. The law’s real purpose is broader and more sinister. Read blog

June 17, 2021

Biden administration declares that Title IX protects transgender students

The rights of transgender and gay students are protected at school by Title IX, the Department of Education said Wednesday, reversing previous guidance that said those students were not protected by any federal laws. The department said that its new position comes out of its interpretation of a landmark Supreme Court decision a year ago in Bostock v. Clayton County, which extended protections in the Civil Rights Act against discrimination in the workplace to gay and transgender Americans. “The Supreme Court has upheld the right for LGBTQ+ people to live and work without fear of harassment, exclusion, and discrimination — and our LGBTQ+ students have the same rights and deserve the same protections,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in a statement. I’m proud to have directed the Office for Civil Rights to enforce Title IX to protect all students from all forms of sex discrimination,” he added. The new guidance is particularly important for students in places where state-level protections for transgender youth don’t exist, said Christy Mallory, legal director at the University of California-Los Angeles’ Williams Institute, which conducts research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and policy. Read more

June 16, 2021

Texas Gov signs ‘anti-critical race theory’ bill into law

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed into law a bill that prescribes how teachers can talk about current events and America’s history of racism in the classroom. His signature makes Texas one of a handful of states across the country that have passed such legislation, which aims to ban the teaching of “critical race theory” in K-12 public school classrooms. Teachers can’t be “compelled to discuss a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs,” according to the new law. Teachers also aren’t allowed to give credit for students to participate in lobbying or public policy internships. Rep. Steve Toth, the bill’s author, said the legislation was necessary “at a time when racial tensions are at a boiling point,” adding that “we don’t need to burden our kids with guilt for racial crimes they had nothing to do with.”

“This will stifle the teaching of huge, important facts about history, which still affect much of our life today,” said Clay Robison, spokesperson for the Texas State Teachers Association. “Teachers and students need and deserve the whole truth about our history, our culture and what our problems are.”

Governors in Idaho and Tennessee have signed similar bills into law with more than a dozen other states considering legislation. Read more

June 15, 2021

Texas Supreme Court orders commissioner to hear NEA-Dallas’ grievance over Dallas ISD teacher appraisal system

Education Commissioner Mike Morath has been ordered to hear a grievance, which he earlier dismissed, brought by teachers against Dallas ISD over the district’s teacher appraisal system, the Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI). Both the school district and the commissioner had dismissed the grievance, contending wrongly that the teachers had missed a district-imposed deadline for filing it. Their dismissals were upheld by a state district court. The Third Court of Appeals in Austin delivered a mixed opinion. Read press release

June 9, 2021

Giving lip service to patriotism

Governor Greg Abbott chose June 7, the day after the 77th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, to sign a law creating the “1836 project” to promote what he calls “patriotic education.” The new law, HB2497, creates a nine-person committee that will be charged with increasing awareness of the state’s history, including its independence from Mexico (hence the 1836 modifier), and advising the governor on how the “core principles” of Texas’ founding “enrich the lives of its residents.” Read blog

June 8, 2021

Spring Branch announces summer teacher pay hike

Spring Branch ISD teachers began summer school this week with a 20 percent pay increase, an incentive to attract educators to campuses to help offset learning losses for more than 3,000 students. The district is focusing heavily on their youngest students, SBISD Superintendent Jennifer Blaine said in a statement, with about 750 pre-K and kindergarten English language learners expected for the Special Language Academy. Read more

June 4, 2021

Central Texas districts cancel fall online classes

At least two Central Texas school districts are discontinuing online classes in the fall, after a bill to continue funding remote learning programs failed in the closing hours of the legislative session. Acting Round Rock Superintendent Daniel Presley said the district had counted on House Bill 1468 to offer a virtual option for families with health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic. But the district announced Thursday it is planning for a “full return to in-person, face-to-face instruction and activities.” The Hays school district also is scrapping plans for a virtual learning option, district spokesman Tim Savoy said in a statement.

The bipartisan bill would have authorized public schools, including charters, to count students in remote learning programs as part of enrollment, which is used to determine public school funding. However, it fell short of final approval on Sunday night, when House Democrats walked out of the Capitol to kill the divisive Republican voting bill ahead of a midnight deadline to pass legislation. Austin school district officials had expressed support for the legislation, and said they were still reviewing the implications of its demise. Alejandro Delgado, the district’s new executive director of student enrollment and advocacy, said the district had been working on a “really rigorous virtual option” and would seek a waiver to continue virtual learning if made available by the Texas Education Agency.

June 3, 2021

New state law allows seniors to graduate in spite of STAAR results

High school seniors who have struggled to pass their STAAR tests can now petition to graduate. House Bill 999 allows a senior who failed any of the required STAAR exams to petition an individual graduation committee, showing alternative work deserving of graduation. The legislation temporarily expands the petition option for current high school seniors because of learning difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Normally, only a high school senior who failed up to two of the five end-of-course tests but passed all classes and fulfilled other requirements could petition to graduate. Each failed exam requires a separate petition to a committee, made up of the student’s teacher, the lead instructor for the subject, the principal and parents, and the committee must give unanimous approval for the student to graduate.

June 1, 2021

Texas bill limiting teaching of historic racism heading to governor

On Friday night, state senators revived a bill that would limit how Texas teachers can talk about current events and America’s history of racism in the classroom, hours after it appeared to have been jettisoned. House Bill 3979 originated in the House, but the Senate substantially changed it earlier this month. Those changes included stripping out more than two dozen requirements that students study the writings or stories of multiple women and people of color. When the bill went back before the House on Friday, state Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) raised a procedural violation, arguing that some changes from the Senate were not relevant to the bill. His point of order was sustained, appearing to block the bill in the final days of the Legislature. However, the language of the legislation was later amended, bringing the measure back into play. The bill says teachers cannot be compelled to discuss current events, and must explore various view points without giving deference to either side. Many educators and education advocacy groups had opposed the bill, saying it limits honest conversations about race and racism in American society.

May 24, 2021

Public safety, democracy at risk as legislative session winds to a close

Public health and safety, education and the protection of democracy are three of the basic responsibilities of our system of state and local government. But the governor, the lieutenant governor and their allies in the Legislature are tossing those responsibilities out the window. Read blog

May 20, 2021

Texas must spend the remaining $7 billion in federal education stimulus funds to increase school budgets

As the legislative session winds to a close, uncertainty remains over the remaining federal stimulus funds, about $7 billion, earmarked for public education in Texas. House and Senate conferees, it has been reported, have reached agreement on a new state budget that removes all legislative oversight over how those funds are to be spent and gives that responsibility to the governor.  Read press release

May 19, 2021

Students have a right to learn an accurate account of history

TSTA believes that denying our students the benefit of a meaningful engagement with civics, history, social studies and current events does nothing to prepare them for the academic rigor of higher education or for life in a complex society. Our best hope of furthering our goals for a more equal and inclusive future lie with students who have a clear-eyed and accurate understanding of our past.

Tell your Texas senator to vote no on HB 3979. Doing so shows support for Texas teachers and ensures that our students will be academically prepared to succeed in higher education and in life.

May 18, 2021

The commissioner of education must follow the law, not dictate it

The Texas House will soon be debating Senate Bill 1365, which attempts to rewrite the state’s accountability rules so that the Texas Education Agency can circumvent inconvenient court rulings in its attempts to take over school districts and their locally elected boards.

The bill removes the guardrails protecting elected school boards from jurisdictional overreach by the appointed commissioner of education, bestowing “final and unappealable” power to a single unelected official and offering no recourse in the courts for communities to appeal.

Write to your Texas representative today to say we believe SB 1365 creates a monumental conflict of interest by allowing the appointed commissioner of education to create and implement his own rules for evaluating our schools and also bestowing the power to assume control over any district that doesn’t measure up to those rules.

Please voice your opposition to SB 1365. The commissioner of education should be compelled to follow state law, and our courts must retain the authority to assure that he does so.

TSTA: Abbott’s ban on masks in schools premature

The Texas State Teachers Association believes Gov. Greg Abbott’s order ending all masking requirements in Texas public schools, effective June 4, is premature. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that schools require masks and social distancing for the remainder of the school year because many students have not been vaccinated and will not complete their two-dose regimen of Pfizer vaccines until well into the summer. Read press release

TFA to Gov: Allow higher ed to continue mask requirements

The Texas Faculty Association urges Gov. Greg Abbott to reconsider his order ending mask requirements in government facilities, including universities. We urge him to allow colleges and universities to continue requiring masks, at least until a larger number of Texans are vaccinated against the coronavirus. Read press release

May 11, 2021

TSTA, faculty group urge conferees to invest in higher ed to free up more stimulus funds

State Comptroller Glenn Hegar has added more than $3 billion to the biennial revenue estimate for the upcoming budget period. The Texas State Teachers Association and the Texas Faculty Association urge budget conferees on Senate Bill 1 to use part of that additional revenue to add $1.2 billion to the higher education budget. Doing so would meet the federal government’s “maintenance of effort” requirement for releasing the remaining stimulus funds for Texas public schools, about $6.7 billion. Read full statement

May 10, 2021

Texas Democrat revives trans athlete bill

Democratic state Rep Harold Dutton on Friday revived and helped advance a bill that would restrict transgender students from participating in school sports, in what appears to be a retaliatory effort directed at members of his own party for sinking one of his bills. Senate Bill 29, the subject of fierce criticism from Mr. Dutton’s fellow Democrats, would require the University Interscholastic League to force students to play on the sports teams based on their biological sex instead of their gender identity. Read more

May 5, 2021

Voter suppression bill a desperate attempt at political survival

The Texas State Teachers Association opposes House Bill 6, the voter suppression bill that the Texas House of Representatives is expected to debate tomorrow. This bill undermines the democratic process for which people have died, it perpetuates the lie of “widespread voter fraud” and it sends the wrong message to Texas’ school children, who have been taught from the earliest grades to value the right to vote. Read full press statement

Districts must include education allies in stimulus funds planning

Texas school districts are required to engage in “meaningful consultation” with stakeholders, including “educators, school staff, and their unions,” when applying for their share of the American Rescue Plan stimulus funds Texas has finally made available. #TeamTSTA has developed a template you can use to inform your district that it must include stakeholder engagement and opportunity for public comment when developing its plan for the allocation of ARP ESSER funds.

Pfizer vaccine for 12-15-year olds could be approved next week

President Joe Biden has announced a new phase in his administration’s push to vaccinate the nation against COVID-19 that includes a focus on children as young as 12. Although no vaccine is currently authorized in the United States for people under 16, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve Pfizer’s request to amend its emergency use authorization to include adolescents ages 12 to 15 as early as next week. Read more

Let social studies teachers teach all the facts, including the sins of Texas, past and present

The war over American and Texas history and how it should be taught is expanding – in the nation’s capital as well as in Texas and other states. On one side are political spin and lies. On the other side are education and facts. Read blog

May 3, 2021

Tell educators they are extra special too

Teacher Appreciation Week is always a special time for educators, but it is extra special now, at the end of a school year when Texas teachers and their support staff have heroically met the needs of their students during a most difficult time with unprecedented challenges. These educators are heroes. Like never before, they deserve this special week and day of recognition. Tomorrow, May 4, is Teacher Appreciation Day. Read press release

April 30, 2021

Every kid deserves to go to school and be themselves

The Texas House’s State Affairs committee on Thursday took up Texas’ CROWN Act, a bill from Dallas Democratic Representative Rhetta Bowers that would prohibit discrimination based on hair texture or hairstyle associated with race in the state. The CROWN Act – Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair – comes as part of a national movement with 10 other states having passed their own CROWN legislation and several others working to do the same. Bowers told the committee it is important to note that the bill does not aim to create a new “protected class” or encourage frivolous lawsuits and is of no cost to the state. The proposal awaits a committee vote. Read more

April 28, 2021

TSTA members’ efforts to get federal stimulus funds to districts starting to pay off for school children

The Texas State Teachers Association is pleased that our members’ demands are beginning to pay off for Texas school children and applaud state officials for releasing $11.2 billion of the federal stimulus money earmarked for public education in Texas. Now, we urge the state to consult with educators and do whatever is necessary to free up the remainder of the stimulus money that the federal government has allocated to Texas schools and release it to school districts. The total was $17.9 billion. Read press release

April 26, 2021

Texas falls farther behind most states in two key indicators of education funding

Despite increased education funding from House Bill 3, the 2019 school finance law, Texas this year fell farther behind the national average in two key indicators, per-student spending and teacher pay, the National Education Association’s latest report on state-by-state education spending shows. Read press release

April 23, 2021

TSTA applauds House anti-voucher vote and amendment requiring Legislature to spend federal stimulus funds

Once again private school vouchers were rejected and two key amendments passed to the budget to govern the state’s allocation of almost $18 billion in federal stimulus funds for public education. Rep. Eddie Rodriguez’s amendment was adopted to require the federal funds to be appropriated to supplement state education spending, as Congress intended, not to replace it. Also adopted was Rep. Geanie Morrison’s amendment to require the entire Legislature to appropriate stimulus funds and not leave the decision to the governor or a small group of lawmakers. Read press release

April 19, 2021

School year ending as it began: Student and educator safety not the highest priority for state officials

As the 2020-21 school year draws to a close, what has been obvious since last August remains unchanged: the safety of students and educators has not been a high enough priority for state officials. Read blog

April 12, 2021

White House discretionary funding request includes billions for education

President Joe Biden’s funding request includes discretionary funding proposals only, while the President’s forthcoming Budget will include major, complementary mandatory investments and tax reforms. It proposes a $36.5 billion investment in Title I grants, a $20 billion increase from the 2021 enacted level, to provide historically under-resourced schools with the funding needed to deliver a high-quality education to all of their students. Read more

April 6, 2021

Another reason STAAR testing during a pandemic is absurd

Even in normal years, the STAAR testing regime is a waste of classroom time and taxpayer dollars. During a pandemic, it is absurd to require students to take a test that doesn’t count and won’t accurately measure the learning loss that state officials claim it will. Read full press statement

TSTA: Educators are angry at the Senate’s failure to appropriate federal education stimulus money; school kids need the extra resources

Texas educators are angry that the Senate has refused to include any of the almost $18 billion in federal stimulus money earmarked for public education in Texas in its version of the new state budget. Our school kids need these additional resources, especially at a time when our public schools are dealing with the most critical and expensive emergency of our lifetimes. Read full press statement

March 31, 2021

TSTA suspects legislative scheme to ignore federal directives for stimulus funds, including much‐needed education money

The Texas State Teachers Association suspects the proposed Board on Administration of Federal Funds is little more than a ploy by state leaders to ignore the intentions of President Biden and the congressional majority when it enacted billions of dollars in federal stimulus aid for Texas. This includes $12.4 billion earmarked for public education, in the American Rescue Plan. Another $5.5 billion in federal money for public education was allocated to Texas under the last COVID stimulus bill enacted in December when Donald Trump was still president, and it remains unspent.

Read press release

March 29, 2021

Do teachers need to disclose their vaccination status?

Education Week speaks to experts about teachers and COVID-19 vaccines. At present, it is not permissible for school or district leaders to require teachers to get vaccinated, as the shots are currently under emergency use authorization. Even after the vaccines have full approval from the Food and Drug Administration, at which point employers could mandate them, they will still have to make exceptions for individuals with certain medical conditions or religious beliefs when imposing any requirements. Read more

States’ calls to cancel standardized testing rejected

On Friday, the Biden administration formally denied requests from Georgia and South Carolina to cancel statewide testing entirely. In its request, Georgia had emphasized that its districts could choose to offer a diagnostic exam, but the department said that was not enough. South Carolina had sought to skip a statewide test in favor of allowing districts to choose their own exam. The department also told Oregon that it could not substitute a survey of students for a standardized test. Read more

March 19, 2021

TSTA calls for Abbott to restore mask mandate for all schools, following change in CDC social distancing guidelines

We are concerned about the CDC’s change from six to three feet for socially distancing guidelines for public schools, especially in districts that have removed their masking requirements for students and employees. We agree with the CDC that students and school staff must be masked, and we call for Gov. Abbott to reinstate his mask mandate, at least for all public schools. Read full press statement.

March 18, 2021

Bill would mandate districts to provide school nurses

State Representative Shawn Thierry (D-Houston) has filed a bill this legislative session to require all districts to employ at least one full-time nurse per school – and also keep a ratio of at least one full-time nurse for every 750 students enrolled. Similar bills have failed in previous sessions, however Thierry hopes the coronavirus pandemic has shown the scope and importance of school nurses’ jobs. Read full press statement

March 15, 2021

Legislature should use federal stimulus money to increase public education budget, not replace state funding

About six in 10 likely Texas voters believe public schools need more funding on top of what they received two years ago, and they say the federal stimulus funding allocated to Texas is the best way to provide that, according to a poll commissioned by the Texas State Teachers Association.

“Voters agree with educators that these federal funds were earmarked for school kids, not to help the Legislature balance the next state budget by replacing state education dollars,” TSTA President Ovidia Molina said. Read press statement

March 12, 2021

Congress approves American Rescue Plan

The US House this week gave final passage to the American Rescue Plan, the COVID relief bill championed by President Biden, which includes nearly $170 billion for public education nationwide. The $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill includes $15.7 billion for public K-12 and higher education in Texas. Biden is expected to sign the legislation tomorrow. Read more

March 10, 2021

ARP passes

Congress today passed a historic economic relief package, the American Rescue Plan, which will provide critical funding to help alleviate suffering felt by millions of Americans. Read press statement

March 4, 2021

Hold harmless decision on school funding may have a catch

We believe the hold-harmless decision issued by Governor Greg Abbott and other state leaders could be a positive step in funding for our public schools, but there may be a catch. For districts to receive full funding for the remainder of the spring semester, regardless of attendance losses, they will have to “maintain or increase current levels of on-campus attendance.” Read press release

March 3, 2021

Biden acted, while Abbott failed educators on vaccines

The Texas State Teachers Association applauds President Biden for acting where Governor Abbott had failed in ordering all school employees and childcare workers to receive priority for COVID-19 vaccines. Read press release

March 2, 2021

Don’t let your guard down, governor, educators and voters still want safe schools and vaccine priority for school employees

Like the governor, we believe we are making progress against the COVID‐19 pandemic, but we are not there yet. Far from it. The COVID numbers have been coming down, but there were still 1,637 new confirmed cases of COVID in Texas yesterday and 59 deaths. Gov. Abbott needs to quit obeying his political impulses and listen to the health experts, who are warning that it is too soon to let our guard down without risking potentially disastrous consequences. Read press release

Miguel Cardona confirmed as Education Secretary

The Senate confirmed Miguel Cardona to serve as education secretary Monday, on a bipartisan 64-33 vote. The son of Puerto Rican parents, he grew up in public housing in Meriden, Conn., and attended public schools throughout his life. He started as a struggling English-language learner and went on to become an elementary-school teacher, an award-winning principal, an assistant superintendent in that school system and Connecticut’s first Latino commissioner of education. He will be sworn in this morning by Vice President Kamala Harris. Read more

March 1, 2021

TSTA poll shows overwhelming support for teacher priority for COVID vaccines

Texas voters overwhelmingly across demographic and partisan groups think that Texas should designate public school teachers as essential workers and give them priority for vaccinations against COVID-19, a bipartisan poll commissioned by the Texas State Teachers Association shows. Read more.

February 28, 2021

NEA updates disaster relief fund with more counties

Effective February 19, 2021, NEA Member Benefits has activated its Disaster Relief Program (DRP) in response to a FEMA-declared major disaster for the incident period of February 11, 2021 and continuing.

The DRP will be effective for all counties included in President Joe Biden’s major disaster declaration. More than 100 Texas counties are covered by the declaration, which allowed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to also start distributing assistance. For a list of covered counties please visit

NEA MB and its business partners stand ready to assist by providing resources to affected members and affiliates, and special accommodations to NEA member-participants in NEA MB programs.

A specially designed DRP Web page at provides details about the resources and accommodations available to affected members.

If you are interested in pursuing relief through the DRP, please contact your NEA Member Benefits Affiliate Relations Specialist, who will serve as your liaison during disaster recovery and provide important data and information that will benefit your Affiliate and your members.

If you have any questions about the Disaster Relief Program or assistance available, please contact Kimberley Adams, Director of Affiliate Relations & Communications, at or 301-527-6243.

February 22, 2021

What is the difference between faux STAAR accountability and real accountability? Abbott may be about to find out

Accountability is a word that Texas politicians don’t often like to accept but love to preach. As preached and practiced in the Texas political system, there are two versions of accountability, one faux and the other real. Read blog

February 14, 2021

More than 1000 employees have left Killeen ISD during pandemic

A total of 1,061 employees — 39% of whom were teachers — have left the Killeen Independent School District since March 2020, the month Governor Greg Abbott temporarily forced the closure of all Texas school districts. Read more

February 5, 2021

Schools must keep identification statuses this year

The Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education has released a document informing states that schools must keep their identification statuses from 2019-20 for the 2020-21 school year. Any school with the status of comprehensive support and improvement, targeted support and improvement, or additional targeted support and improvement will keep that identification status this year. The Department of Education is providing flexibilities for certain accountability and school identification requirements, but it maintained that assessment, accountability, school identification, and reporting requirements under Title I are not waived for the 2020-21 school year. Read more

February 3, 2021

Calls mount to strike Marjorie Taylor Greene from House Education Committee

The two largest teachers’ unions in the United States released a joint statement on Tuesday calling for the removal of Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from the House Education Committee. In a letter to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers argue that Ms. Greene lacks the “judgment, empathy or wisdom” to have responsibility over learning environments, as demonstrated by her associations with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Read more

February 1, 2021

TEA says students must take STAAR tests on campus

There will be no online alternative for STARR testing for parents who don’t want to send their children back to school over COVID-19 concerns. The Texas Education Agency announced Friday that students will have to take the standardized tests in person under the supervision of a test administrator. School districts can set up sites outside of their schools where they can ensure equitable access and maintain test security. Read more

January 28, 2021

Texas House Speaker supports ‘hold-harmless’ funding for school districts

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan said yesterday that he supports a move that to allow the state’s school districts receive millions of dollars in funding. Schools could lose millions because of enrollment drops and absenteeism caused by the pandemic, as state funding is tied to student attendance. Soon, administrators may need to make up those funding losses by pulling money from reserves or, worse, cutting staff. Phelan, along with more than half of the Texas House, have been outspoken in support of extending the hold-harmless period through the end of the current school year, as school leaders have requested. Read more

January 25, 2021

Biden boosts food benefits for children

An executive order signed by President Joe Biden on Friday aims to address food insecurity caused by the pandemic by extending a federal nutrition program and focusing resources on children who have missed meals due to closed schools. It directs the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to consider issuing new guidance to allow states to increase emergency benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that Congress has approved but have not been made available to those in need due to the pandemic. It also asks the USDA to issue guidance increasing Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) payments by 15% in order to “increase access to nutritious food for millions of children missing meals due to school closures.” Read more

January 22, 2021

Biden rolls out new strategy to reopen schools

On his first full day in office, President Joe Biden set out details for how his administration plans to get the country’s public school system back up and running for in-person learning. The 200-page federal plan, and executive orders he signed Thursday, call for “sustained and coordinated” efforts with the cooperation of states and new resources, guidance, and data for schools as they continue to respond to the pandemic. Read more

January 21, 2021

Pause on federal student loan payments extended

The US Department of Education announced Wednesday that it would extend the suspension of federal student loan payments through September 30 and keep the interest rate at 0%. “Too many Americans are struggling to pay for basic necessities and to provide for their families. They should not be forced to choose between paying their student loans and putting food on the table,” the Department said in a statement. Read more.

January 20, 2021

College Board is scrapping SAT’s essay and subject tests

The College Board is eliminating the optional essay component of the SAT, and will no longer offer subject tests in US history, languages and math, among other topics, as the pandemic accelerates a push for changes in college admissions. The decision doesn’t affect the main SAT. The organization, which administers the college entrance exam in addition to several other tests, including Advanced Placement exams, said the coronavirus crisis has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to reduce and simplify demands on students.” Read more.

January 14, 2021

Legislative session convenes

With restricted access to a heavily guarded state Capitol, the biennial session of the Texas Legislature convened Tuesday, with the House, as expected, overwhelmingly electing Representative Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, as its new speaker.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has made the revenue outlook tighter than it was two years ago, when lawmakers increased funding for public schools by several billion dollars, both Phelan and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, said public education will be a top priority again this year.

January 11, 2021

Districts must not be penalized for ending in-person instruction until educators are vaccinated

The Texas State Teachers Association is disappointed that Governor Greg Abbott has not added school employees to the COVID-19 vaccination priority list, and we continue to urge him to do so.

Meanwhile, we encourage every school employee who is 65 or older or who has underlying health conditions to take the COVID vaccine, if their physicians approve. But our public schools and students will not be safe from this pandemic until every educator who wants a vaccine can get one, and it may be some months before Texas has enough vaccine doses to cover all educators and other high-risk groups. Read more.

Legislature must provide virtual testimony option

As the Texas Legislature prepares to convene during a deadly pandemic, the Texas State Teachers Association calls on legislators to provide an option for virtual testimony for all committee hearings. The lawmaking process must remain accessible to all members of the public, including those who need or prefer the safety of participating remotely. Read more.

January 8, 2021

Betsy DeVos resigns as Education Secretary

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos submitted her resignation in a letter to President Donald Trump on Thursday, saying she would step down over the rampage at the Capitol. Although she went on to praise the President for championing her school choice agenda, she lamented: “Impressionable children are watching all of this, and they are learning from us. They must know from us that America is greater than what transpired yesterday. Read more.

NEA’s statement on the resignation of Betsy DeVos

January 7, 2021

Talking to kids about the attack on the capitol

Wednesday’s violence at the United States Capitol is an attack on our country and on our democratic institutions and most children are aware of more than we realize. Our nation has never witnessed an event like this in recent history and it’s difficult to make sense of the confusing, frightening scenes, let alone explain the situation to our children. But what is most important to remember and to tell kids is that the brave people who are helping will eventually bring order and peace. Read more

January 4, 2021

Plans to introduce weekly COVID testing at all schools

President-elect Joe Biden is weighing a multibillion-dollar plan for fully reopening schools that would hinge on testing all students, teachers and staff for COVID-19 at least once a week, with the cost covered by the federal government. Transition officials are still trying to determine the exact price for regular testing in the nation’s schools, with one person close to the deliberations putting the cost at between $8 billion and $10 billion over an initial three-month period. Mr Biden has pledged to reopen the majority of schools within his first 100 days in office, amid growing concerns about the educational and mental health toll that months of remote learning has taken on a generation of students. Read more

New Texas bill would compel schools to rehire teachers who quit due to COVID

Teachers that quit their jobs due to COVID-19 concerns would get the chance to return to their old desks with benefits and all if a newly filed bill in the Texas Legislature is passed into laws. COVID-wary teachers driven from the job by the virus would be entitled to return to the same pay and benefits under the bill. Read more