Texas Schools

Any free time left?

As we announced this past week, the overall priority is to get Texas children educated, deferring to local experts at the district level to decide on the timing and nature of the instruction.

You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Deuteronomy 11:19

That Bible verse was written specifically to parents on their responsibility to teach their children the word of God, but I suspect it reflects how Texas parents feel they’ve been spending all of their time for the past few months. With children sent home from schools to stem the spread of coronavirus, many parents discovered their days would not only be full of working their jobs from home, but also teaching their children as well. From what I’m hearing, fatigue is setting in, big time.

As local school districts work through the process of getting students back in school, there has been plenty of shouting from various quarters, from people trying to drive the conversation in their preferred direction without much regard for the big picture beyond their own agenda.

Amidst the noise, there are plenty of voices we’re not hearing much, since they’re too busy juggling real life responsibilities to go on Twitter rants. I’m talking about parents already exhausted from teaching and entertaining their kids pretty much nonstop for four months who would like to have a balanced conversation about risks and safeguards.

I’m also talking about parents at their wits end trying to find care for their kids because they work jobs that can’t be done from home, like folks in the service industry or construction workers (jobs that, incidentally, the most vocal of the critics wouldn’t do on a dare.)

As the Texas Education Agency has provided guidance to local school officials — listening to a myriad of voices, exploring technology options for educators, and working to balance safety with the need for instruction, the so-called “Big Three” (the governor, lieutenant governor and yours truly) have been supporting their expert efforts to find an approach to the fall term that works.

As we announced this past week, the overall priority is to get Texas children educated, deferring to local experts at the district level to decide on the timing and nature of the instruction. Whether your child’s public school wants to start everyone in-person on one day in August, would prefer to delay a couple of weeks using virtual instruction, or even take a hybrid approach to reduce classroom loading, the decision is up to them. The state will make sure they have the funding and resources needed to do this effectively as they find their way.

While the threat of the coronavirus is real, so is the threat of families being overwhelmed by the responsibility to educate their children while working to make a living. I can personally attest that I have received a significant volume of correspondence from BOTH sides — many teachers and parents demanding virtual-only learning with a nearly equal amount desperately wanting to return to the familiarity and routine of in-classroom instruction. As we navigate these unfamiliar waters together, I hope my fellow Texans will take a minute to reflect on the situations of all Texas families, not just their own, and muster up some compassion before sending that next Tweet or posting that next Facebook rant.

We all want what’s best for Texas students, both in terms of health and education, so let’s back away from those extreme positions and work together on sensible, science- and data-driven solutions for a generation of children whose education and future ability to feed their own children are at risk of falling prey to this virus.

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