“With a pandemic still raging across Texas, the Texas State Teachers Association demands that the state prohibit any school district from beginning classes, in-person or remotely, before Sept. 8,” TSTA President Ovidia Molina said in a statement released July 31. “After that date, districts should be allowed to reopen buildings to in-person instruction only after consultation with local health authorities, teachers, other school employees and parents and with strict safety standards enforced.”
The statement was released after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton earlier this week said in a letter that local districts, not city or county officials, have the sole authority to close schools due to the ongoing pandemic.
According to the letter and guidance by the Texas Education Agency, schools could begin the year virtually for four weeks after a board vote to do so, with a potential extension for an additional four weeks while retaining state funding. However, districts could jeopardize their state funding if campus closures persist beyond that, according to current guidelines.
“Districts that choose to provide only online instruction must not be penalized with a loss of state funding,” Molina said in the TSTA statement. “If [the TEA] really want to put the health and safety of students and educators first, this is what the governor and TEA will do, not impose artificial limits on online learning and financial penalties on districts.”
Gov. Greg Abbott said July 31 that the TEA's guidelines put in place two weeks ago are still in place. However, he clarified that, while only districts can delay the start of in-person classes, "local public health authority may determine that a school building must be closed in response to an outbreak" once the school year has begun.
"If that occurs, that school will continue to receive funding for providing remote-only instruction during the period of that closure," he said in a statement.