AUSTIN, Texas — On Wednesday, the Texas House Democratic Caucus hosted a press conference aiming to call attention to issues teachers, students and families are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and actions they say Gov. Greg Abbott is remaining silent on.
Specifically, the Democrats are calling for an extension of "hold harmless," or continuing to fund schools despite attendance, and to cancel the in-person STAAR test this year.
The press conference was streamed digitally and can be watched below. It was presented by:
- Rep. Alma Allen (Harris County)
- Rep. John Bucy (Williamson County)
- Rep. Art Fierro (El Paso County)
- Rep. Mary González (El Paso County)
- Rep. Vikki Goodwin (Travis County)
- Rep. Ana Hernandez (Harris County)
- Rep. Oscar Longoria (Cameron, Hidalgo counties)
"Our public schools should not be losing funding simply because we're in the middle of a pandemic," said Rep. Bucy. "Last summer, the Texas Education Agency enacted a hold-harmless provision to ensure schools wouldn't lose funding based on attendance at a time where attendance is volatile. Now, that provision has expired and neither the governor, nor the Texas Education Agency, has decided whether they will continue that provision. Our schools stand to lose millions of dollars should we not extend hold-harmless."
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced earlier this year that Texas public school students will be required to show up in person to take the STAAR assessments this spring. However, districts can apply for waivers to socially distance test takers.
Texas will be moving forward with standardized tests, taken in grades three through 12, in spring and summer and is requiring that students take them at a “monitored” testing site. School districts can set up sites outside of their schools, including performing arts centers, hotels and recreation centers where they can “ensure equitable access and maintain test security.”
"We cannot ask our schools to take the burden of scheduling, in-person STAARS for all of the students across the state of Texas," said Rep. Allen. "That's 5 million children and thousands of teachers and employees. We're in the middle of a life-threatening pandemic. We also cannot ask our teachers or our school personnel, students and familes to put themselves at risk for an unnecessary test. Let me emphasize, unnecessary."
Click here to view the Spring 2021 State Assessment Guide from the TEA.
The Texas Tribune contributed to this report.
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