Texas Teachers Object To School Reopening Plan

Chelsey Zhu

June 19, 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus School Closed
In Texas, school districts won’t be required to make students and staff wear masks or get tested for … [+] GETTY

Two teachers’ unions in Texas have strong objections to Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan for reopening public schools in August. They’re criticizing the governor’s lack of transparency with educators. 

Abbott told lawmakers yesterday that schools would reopen in the fall for in-person instruction. Remote learning will be available for families with health concerns, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath told The Texas Tribune. 

School districts will not be required to mandate masks or Covid-19 testing for students, according to a spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the branch of the state government responsible for public education. The TEA will announce additional reopening guidelines on Tuesday.Most Popular In: Education

“Texas AFT says a big ‘Hell No’ to what looks like a return to normal in August,” said the Texas American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Zeph Capo in a statement. “We are not in normal times. We won’t sacrifice our members and students for politics.” He criticized the governor’s plan to reopen without proper precautions, and he encouraged the use of masks at schools “whenever possible.”

Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) President Noel Candelaria also spoke out against Abbott in a statement, saying that reopening schools too soon will endanger “the health and safety of millions of Texas schoolchildren, educators and their families.” 

The TSTA released its own safety standards for in-person instruction, which include “robust” testing and contact tracing, frequent temperature checks, and an adequate supply of masks and gloves for all students, teachers and visitors. TSTA Spokesperson Clay Robison wrote in an email that neither Abbott nor Morath contacted the association before deciding to reopen schools, forgoing the input of educators who are most at risk in Abbott’s plan.

The national union, the National Education Association, also recommends that communities have robust testing, contact-tracing, and case-isolation measures before opening schools. Its guidelines say students and staff should undergo routine temperature checks and wear masks throughout the school day except during meals. 

“The pandemic hasn’t even peaked in Texas yet,” TSTA’s Robison said. “We believe we have been seeing record numbers of new Covid cases partly because the governor prematurely allowed restaurants, amusement venues and other businesses to reopen.”

Nearly 100,000 Texans have tested positive for coronavirus. Around 3,500 people tested positive and 3,000 were hospitalized for the virus on June 18, a record high for both categories.