March 3, 2021
The Texas Education Agency this afternoon released new guidance on masks in response to the governor’s actions lifting the statewide mask mandate yesterday. TEA is leaving in place its mask requirements while allowing local school boards to override them and decide if masks should be mandatory. I predict that this will lead to harmful, divisive local battles—which is unfortunate because even with vaccinations on the rise, health officials are still stressing the use of masks as one of the most effective tools we have to stop the spread.
I’m encouraging our union family to continue to fight for safety measures like masks, social distancing, and districts providing health-compromised employees with accommodations to stay remote. In the race to normalcy, Gov. Abbott jumped the gun with his dangerous removal of the statewide mask mandate yesterday, a move that appears to be politically motivated to shift attention away from the controversies over the state’s power outages. His callous disregard of school employees continues.
But let’s take a moment to celebrate the leadership from the Biden administration in doing the right thing and prioritizing school employees. We all want to get back to our schools to teach in person without fearing the dire consequences of a serious infection. While this is only one piece to that end, it certainly is to be commended.
I encourage all of you to make safety a priority and work to get a vaccination appointment. We will continue to update you as more information is released.
Zeph Capo, Texas AFT President
Note that under the federal directive: “Teachers, school staff, and child care workers are defined as: those who work in pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools, as well as Head Start and Early Head Start programs (including teachers, staff, and bus drivers) and those who work as or for licensed child care providers, including center-based and family care providers.”