AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday was in Arlington, Texas, to provide an update on the State's efforts to expand access to the COVID-19 vaccine, namely announcing a strategy shift moving more vaccines to large vaccination hubs.
After his tour of an Arlington vaccine facility, the Texas State Teachers Association issued a response, asking the governor to end the policy requiring in-person instruction to receive state funding:
"The Texas State Teachers Association is disappointed that Gov. Greg Abbott has not added school employees to the COVID-19 vaccination priority list, and we continue to urge him to do so.
Meanwhile, we encourage every school employee who is 65 or older or who has underlying health conditions to take the COVID vaccine, if their physicians approve. But our public schools and students will not be safe from this pandemic until every educator who wants a vaccine can get one, and it may be some months before Texas has enough vaccine doses to cover all educators and other high-risk groups.
So, we repeat our call for the governor and the Texas Education Agency to give school districts the flexibility to close their buildings and conduct only remote instruction, without losing state funding, for the remainder of this school year if local health experts and school officials believe that is necessary to keep students, educators and communities safe.
We also urge the governor to keep all districts fully funded for the remainder of the school year regardless of attendance losses. Schools cannot afford funding cuts, especially in the middle of a health crisis."
Here in Central Texas, Austin ISD, for example, said the district has had to deny more than 100 work-from-home accommodation requests.
"It is absolutely necessary that our teachers be in the classroom," AISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde told KVUE in December. "I know this is a very difficult time and I would ask everyone to recognize that what we did do is we allowed all of those accommodations to go uninterrupted throughout the entire semester at a very high number of accommodations in comparison to everywhere else. And so, rather than looking at this from the perspective of what we've taken away, I want to reach out to them and work with them on how can we meet somewhere in between."
She spoke with KVUE after the area moved into Stage 5 restrictions and also addressed this State policy while considering the possibility of school closures. Elizalde said a complete closure would be the district's last resort.
"The only reason that's even being considered is because of the financial implications because going, one, 100% remote essentially is the same as closure, except at least we could offer virtual instruction. However, currently under the Texas Education Agency's interpretation and requirements, if we go 100% remote, meaning we do not offer any on-campus, in-person instruction, then we will only be funded at 50%," she said.
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