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.”
Photo source: https://www.freepik.com/vectors/medical”>Medical vector created by brgfx – www.freepik.com
March 3, 2021
The Houston Federation of Teachers, Texas AFT and our national union, the American Federation of Teachers announced a victory in our effort to get teachers and school staff prioritized for the vaccine. Our union lobbied the Biden administration to fix the injustice to our members resulting from Gov. Abbott’s decision to deny us access to the vaccine and we won!
The federal government is using the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program to implement its plan, which means it will concentrate on prioritizing school employees through vaccinations at pharmacies. Please read the e-mail below for more details. This is one more example of how HFT and AFT advocate for all school employees, regardless of union membership.
This victory would not have happened without AFT union members speaking out and through their HFT membership, investing in a union that can earn national media attention, and get the attention of the White House.
If you are not an HFT member, please take time today to thank a colleague who has been a union member for leading the fight for vaccine access, pay raises we have all benefitted from, and for holding HISD accountable.
I ask you to join HFT and unite with the thousands of your HISD colleagues who are working to win greater respect for our profession and fight for the schools our students deserve.
Special Education Teacher and HFT President
We need Gov. Abbott to do his job and control the spread of COVID-19 — and the endless series of confusing mandates the state is sending to school districts. Write to the governor and ask him to get this virus under control before we even consider reopening school buildings. There are concrete prerequisites for in-person instruction — and it’s the governor’s job to ensure those ..
A court ruling Wednesday temporarily halted the state’s plans to take over Houston ISD and replace its School Board with a board of managers appointed by Education Commissioner Mike Morath.
Travis County District Judge Catherine Mauzy granted Houston ISD an injunction ordering that the Texas Education Agency could not proceed with the takeover until the district’s lawsuit against it is heard in court, with the next hearing scheduled in June. However, TEA likely will appeal the stay, so just how long the injunction will remain in place is uncertain.
“We’re thrilled that the judge sees the harm that would be caused to Houston schools and students if there were an immediate takeover of the Houston Independent School District,” said Zeph Capo, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers and Texas AFT. “The state wanted to make a very quick and consequential move—which we contend is unwarranted and illegal—that the judge rightly said would cause irreparable harm if made prematurely.”
AFT President Randi Weingarten also weighed in on the decision. “The judge made clear that the best interests of children and of the community that represents them are more important than Commissioner of Education Mike Morath’s power grab,” she said, adding that Houston public schools have shown real progress, and the Texas Education Agency can’t simply ignore that progress and use a ruse to take over HISD.
HFT members had planned a protest rally for the first School Board of the meeting of the year last night, but the ruling gave cause for some celebration as dozens of union members, parents and students gathered outside with a banner proclaiming, “GO AWAY TEA.” Four new members of the School Board will be seated at the next meeting and will begin serving their terms.
A federal court on December 19 had dismissed Houston ISD’s attempt and an injunction and dismissed its lawsuit, which also stopped Texas AFT’s attempt to join the suit. However, the judge allowed the action to continue in state court. Texas AFT currently is weighing its options on pursuing further legal action against the state. You can read more about the state takeover attempt and legal action against it here.
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