Gov. Abbott issues order banning COVID vaccination mandates
Gov. Greg Abbott has issued an executive order cracking down on COVID-19 vaccine mandates, banning any entity in Texas, including private businesses, from requiring vaccinations for employees or customers. Abbott also called on the Legislature to pass a law with the same effect. The Legislature is in its third special legislative session, which ends October 19th. "The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, & our best defense against the virus, but should always remain voluntary & never forced," he said in a tweet announcing the order. Mr. Abbott issued executive orders over the summer banning local governments and school districts from requiring either masks or vaccinations, issuing $1,000 fines to those who failed to comply. School districts in San Antonio and Dallas have challenged the order in court. The Legislature also passed a bill in June banning private businesses from requiring proof of vaccination from customers.
The Texas Tribune
Texas Senate bill allocates relief money to Teacher Retirement System
The Texas Senate on Friday advanced its proposal doling about $16bn in federal coronavirus relief dollars to help shore up people, industries and state agencies that have been financially strained by the pandemic. The legislation, Senate Bill 8 authored by state Sen. Jane Nelson, a Flower Mound Republican who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, would direct money to state hospitals, food banks and the tourism industry. About $286m is allocated to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas to help cover COVID-related health claims and to ensure that no active or retired teachers face increases in health care premiums because of the pandemic.
The Texas Tribune
Longview ISD board approves new Virtual Academy
The Longview ISD Board of Trustees approved the creation of a remote learning program and asynchronous instructional plan at its meeting on Monday. Coordinator of Policy and New Schools John Wink said that the Virtual Academy, for grades three to 12, will utilize the BrightThinker curriculum in the four core instructional areas and any electives required for high school
credit. The meeting also saw speakers speak out both for and against the district's campus mask mandate. In a statement issued before the meeting, the district said the number of new cases of COVID-19 has reduced significantly since the mask mandate went into effect.
Lewisville ISD to apply for 13 state waivers for larger classes
Lewisville ISD will apply for class-size waivers this school year for 13 classes that exceed the Texas Education Agency’s recommended 22 students per class. Two kindergarten, one second grade, six third grade and four fourth grade classes across the district each have 23 students in class, exceeding TEA recommendations in prekindergarten through fourth grade, according to LISD documents.
Parents file lawsuit against Frisco ISD, other districts for lack of mask mandates
Frisco ISD is one of four defendants of a federal class action lawsuit filed against Texas school districts without mask mandates. The lawsuit, which was filed by parents Sept. 28 in the Western District of Texas, also names Grapevine-Colleyville, Hurst-Euless-Bedford and Lago Vista ISDs as defendants. Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order in June prohibiting state government entities, including schools, from requiring masks. Since then, several districts, including Dallas ISD, have defied the order. The lawsuit argues Abbott’s order is superseded by the 14th Amendment, which says no state “shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens; nor deprive any person of life, liberty or property ...” The parents are seeking a temporary restraining order followed by a permanent injunction, which would require the district to implement mask mandates, according to the lawsuit.
Policy recommendations for state lawmakers to support 'principal pipelines'
A new report by the Wallace Foundation underlines how state policy can support school districts in building and strengthening principal pipelines. Paul Manna, the Hyman professor of government and director of the Public Policy Program at the College of William & Mary, suggests six "levers" state lawmakers can pull, asserting that approaches that embrace flexibility and provide local school districts with incentives to consider launching principal pipeline initiatives would be a better approach than mandating typically more rigid standards. Examples of actions policymakers can take, he adds, include developing leader standards with differentiation between leadership roles, using those standards to inform oversight and licensing for principal preparation programs, and ensuring flexibility for local standards and evaluation policy processes.
Federal funding key to tackling soaring U.S. childcare costs
Jason DeParle explores the nation's soaring childcare costs and underlines the determining role of the federal government in funding seismic changes to the sector. The Treasury Department reported last month that the average cost of care is roughly $10,000 a year per child and consumes about 13% of family income, nearly twice what the government considers affordable. At the same time, the Department noted the average teacher earns about $24,000 a year, many live in poverty, and nearly half receive some public assistance. “It’s among the lowest-paid of all occupations,” laments Lea J.E. Austin of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. “People have a hard time seeing that this is complex, specialized work.” The weighty social policy bill being pushed by President Biden at present would cap families’ childcare expenses at 7% of their income, DeParle notes, offer large subsidies to child care centers, and require the centers to raise wages in hopes of improving teacher quality, and a version before the House would cost $250 billion over a decade and raise annual spending fivefold or more within a few years. An additional $200 billion would provide universal prekindergarten. “This would be the biggest investment in the history of childcare,” says Stephanie Schmit, a child care expert at the Center for Law and Social Policy, who asserts: "This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do right for everyone.”
New York Times
HEALTH & WELLBEING
Supply chain issues impacting schools' COVID-19 testing capabilities
Lawmakers and school leaders are increasingly sharing concerns about schools' continued limited access to COVID-19 tests, as well as slim testing bandwidth due to staff shortages for administering and documenting regular testing. In places where funds are limited, staff bandwidth is slim or distribution is slow, some districts are being pushed to forego regular testing. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, speaking during a September 30 meeting of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, acknowledged that demand has increased "month over month" as much as 650% in places and is not evenly spread across the nation. For her part at the meeting, Sen. Patty Murray, chair of the HELP Committee, highlighted a recent survey showing that the majority of parents of color needed COVID-19 testing in place, among other safety measures, to feel safe while sending their children to school in person. "Districts that originally were getting tests from the state — those supplies are running really low, and so they're having to try to get their providers to give them these tests and who can run the lab for the tests," warns Sasha Pudelski, advocacy director for AASA, The School Superintendents Association. "They're not closing schools, they're just not having testing."
Texas State University launches $250m fundraising campaign
Texas State University has launched the public portion of its largest fundraising campaign ever in hopes of raising $250m for scholarships, teaching, research and upgrades to campus facilities. Texas State President Denise Trauth said the capital campaign is also focused on moving Texas State closer to its goal of becoming a Tier One research institution. Texas State is one of eight schools classified as an emerging research university by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. To become a Texas Tier One school, it would need to spend more than $45m on research for two years in a row and meet other criteria, such as having an endowment of at least $400m for at least two years. If it meets the higher standards, Texas State would join a list of nine other schools ranked by Carnegie as Tier One universities in the state, including the University of Texas and Texas A&M University. The fundraising effort aims to provide more student enrichment programs and recruit and retain more instructors by increasing endowed faculty positions. The campaign also aims to renovate the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, raise enough money to construct a new music building and expand practice and training facilities for student-athletes.
Gun safety advocates sound alarm to Congress
A day after four people were injured in a Texas high school shooting, gun safety advocates and the heads of the nation’s two biggest teachers unions demanded new gun control laws, citing an unusually violent return-to-school season as students resume in-person learning. During a press call Thursday, leaders with Everytown for Gun Safety, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association bemoaned a return to campus gun violence after a year without mass school shootings. There were 30 reported instances of gunfire on school grounds between August 1st and September 15th, resulting in five deaths and 23 injuries, according to a tally by Everytown, a nonprofit advocacy group that promotes gun control measures. "You parlay that with the anxiety and stress that preK through 12 children have lived through for the last 18 months," said Joe Erardi, who took over as superintendent of schools in Newtown, Connecticut, in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and is now a school safety consultant for AASA, The School Superintendents Association. "If you allow this country's most complex minds to stay home and plan for 18 months, it is a formula for a horrible school opening. And that's exactly what's taken place." AFT President Randi Weingarten called for moderate lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, to support measures like red flag laws, firearm storage rules and background checks for all gun sales. “It shouldn’t be controversial,” she said. “There’s huge bipartisan support [among voters] for these common-sense safety measures.”
US News and World Report
National School Bus Safety Week focuses on danger zone awareness
The American School Bus Council (ASBC) has chosen “Be Safe, Know the Danger Zone” as the theme for this year's National School Bus Safety Week theme, which runs from October 18th-22nd. The organization is urging students and motorists to be mindful of the potentially devastating results of getting within the 12-foot area around the outside of a school bus. “With students back in the classroom again, we value the school bus with renewed perspective,” said Ronna Weber, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS). “That’s why it’s important to celebrate safety week in your school bus community.”
School Bus Fleet
College Station teacher named Texas Art Teacher of the Year
Cypress Grove Intermediate School art teacher Christine Grafe was recently named the Texas Art Education Association Teacher of the Year. According to the organization, Grafe earned the award for “significant contributions to TAEA and to art education on the state, local and/or national level.” The distinction has been awarded to one art educator each year since 1977.
Corsicana to name building after late Dr. Rogers
Corsicana ISD plans to honor late School Board President and Navarro County Health Director Dr. Kent Rogers, who passed away in January from COVID-19, the virus he worked so hard to contain in the community. CISD will dedicate its administration building to Dr. Rogers at 5:30 p.m. Friday, October 15th. The public is invited to attend.
Corsicana Daily Sun