TALAS E-newsletter – January 14

Posted on January 14th, 2021
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Texas News
Even after COVID-19, North Texas districts expect a demand for some virtual learning options
Charles Lachman, 16, opens his laptop and flips his phone to do-not-disturb when it’s time for class to start each morning.

His desk in the game room holds the essentials: A copy of “Of Mice and Men,” headphones and notebooks. Otherwise, there are limited distractions — no fellow students tapping their feet, no whispers flowing around the room.

“I can sometimes get distracted by very small things,” said Charles, who attends Frisco’s Lebanon Trail High School. But in his virtual classes: “I can pretty much stay focused on my work and get it done.”

Last Year, 90% Of San Antonio’s 4-Year-Olds Were Enrolled In School: Now, Texas’s Early Ed Program Is Severely Impacted By The Pandemic
Not only were more children being reached, but San Antonio’s pre-K classrooms had been getting better.

For Sarah Baray, a dream seemed within reach as 2020 opened. More four-year-olds than ever before would spend at least part of their days in San Antonio classrooms, giggling and exploring with teachers skillfully guiding their play into crucial learning.

After four years as chief executive of an ambitious program to bring pre-K programs to San Antonio’s children, Baray saw it becoming an equalizer in the nation’s seventh-largest city, just as she knew it could.

COVID-19 positivity rate among school children outpacing the rest of the Austin community
Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said the positivity rate among school-aged children is outpacing that of the entire community.

Austin Public Health said after testing 2,560 kids ages 3 through 18 last week, 19.8% of elementary-aged students came back positive, 20.2% of high schoolers came back positive and a record 27.1% of middle schoolers came back positive.

According to the City of Austin/Travis County dashboard, the current positivity rate for the entire area (all ages) is 17.8%.

A look back at Magnolia ISD accomplishments in 2020 during ‘an unusual year’
Magnolia ISD Director of Communications Denise Meyers said one of the district’s biggest accomplishments in 2020 was maintaining structure during a school year where nothing was normal.

Last year, the school district learned to navigate virtual and on-campus learning for students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking ahead, Magnolia ISD aims to continue providing a safe learning environment for students and staff while meeting the needs to a growing community.

The Serious Stuff, the Loud Stuff, the Money Stuff: A Preview of the 87th Texas Lege
Lawmakers will have their hands full with a budget deficit and the pandemic. Here’s what else to watch for this session.

Come January of any other odd-numbered year, I’d use this space to rile you up about how crazy the upcoming regular session of the Texas Legislature was going to be. I would be doing so, in part, to try to get people to tune in. State government is where some of the most important decisions affecting our day-to-day lives are made—schools, hospitals, roads—but it competes for attention with, well, everything else, and there’s a lot of everything else this year. The fact that the Lege is a natural font of inanities and lunacy is helpful, in that respect, like a poisonous tree frog’s unmistakably bright colors. Here lies danger.

State Rep. Diego Bernal On Tackling Education Funding During The Pandemic
Lawmakers report to the state Capitol on Jan. 12 for the start of the 2021 Texas legislative session. They have a difficult road ahead of them to determine the state’s biannual budget amid revenue shortfalls caused by the pandemic. And a major part of that budget is public education.

During the 2019 session, lawmakers passed House Bill 3 – a major overhaul of the state’s education finance system that allowed for teacher raises and more money per student. This year, a Democratic state representative from San Antonio, Diego Bernal, says lawmakers will have to figure out how to continue that work despite the difficult financial circumstances. He told Texas Standard that lawmakers have to do more this year than just maintain the status quo.

Report: COVID-19 in communities of color could cost Texas $2.7 billion in excess medical spending
Chronic illnesses, the result of inadequate access to health care, are more prevalent in Texas’ Black and Latino communities, contributing to more deaths from COVID-19 and costing billions of dollars in increased health care costs and lost economic activity, according to a new study.

The study, by the Episcopal Health Foundation, a Houston nonprofit, found that disparities in both health and access to health care between Blacks, Latinos and the overall population are expected to cost Texans up to $2.7 billion annually in excess medical spending. That includes increased spending during the pandemic due to more serious cases as a result of chronic conditions, according to the report.

It’s costly, researchers said, to fail to address the roots of health inequity such as racism, poverty and access to health care.

After A Rocky Start, Gov. Greg Abbott Promises To Ramp Up COVID-19 Vaccinations Across Texas
Twenty-eight coronavirus vaccination hubs will receive most of the state’s next shipment of COVID-19 vaccines this week.

More than 877,000 Texans have received a COVID-19 vaccine since they first began arriving in Texas nearly four weeks ago, and that number is expected to increase by at least 50,000 more per day, Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday.

“Never before in the history of this state has Texas vaccinated so many people so quickly,” Abbott said during remarks at the Esports Stadium Arlington & Expo Center, a newly-designated “vaccination hub” that local health officials said can vaccinate thousands per day. “It’s stunning to see what we’ve accomplished.”

Looking for a new opportunity?
Supporting Your Career
LinkedIn is offering free online classes based on the top skills people are getting hired for in 2021
Whether you’re aspiring to jump into a new field or want to stand out in your current one, it helps to know what applicants are actually getting hired for. 

Looking at videos from active LinkedIn Learning users, LinkedIn found the courses that recently hired members were more likely to watch. They include tutorials for hard skills, like project management and software development, as well as broader career development tips, such as interviewing advice and resume editing.

To help job seekers gain a competitive edge, LinkedIn is offering free online video courses around the most sought-after career skills through January 31.

National News
Dept. of Ed Says Title IX Does Not Apply to LGBTQ Discrimination
The United States Department of Education’s Office of the General Counsel published a memorandum on Friday that states that LGBTQ students are not expressly included in protections under Title IX, the law that prohibits sex discrimination at federally funded institutions.

Questions about how Title IX applies to LGBTQ students surfaced after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in June, Bostock v. Clayton County, which cemented protections for LGBTQ workers under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the law that prohibits workplace discrimination based on race, sex, religion or national origin. The Supreme Court determined that “sex” under Title VII should be interpreted to include LGBTQ people, when they face discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

COLUMN: As Betsy DeVos steps down, critics hope it is time to put the public back in public education
Many want to undo a legacy that favored private schools and market solutions

For four years, opponents of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos deplored her private school priorities, so it was hardly expected she’d be hailed as a hero for a sudden epiphany disassociating herself from President Donald Trump and resigning.

The most succinct reaction to her meaningless resignation 13 days before her term ended came in a two-word statement from a longtime nemesis, the American Federation of Teachers: Good riddance.

States move to suspend school report cards, create accountability flexibilities
Taking advantage of flexibilities allowed by the U.S. Department of Education this school year, Ohio, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Tennessee and other states have moved to suspend school accountability report cards or waive or reduce the weight of certain accountability measures, like assessments, for the 2020-21 school year.

While the National Assessment of Educational Progress has been postponed until 2022, state assessments are still continuing in many places with added flexibilities. States suspending report cards or putting in place flexibilities for accountability cited the need to have supports for struggling schools and students with the aid of assessment results, while detangling those results from penalties. 

Harris On Immigration Plan: Automatic Green Cards for Dreamers, Shorter Citizenship Wait Times
The Vice President-elect touched on the incoming administration’s immigration agenda

President-elect Joe Biden’s administration has put together an immigration reform plan that includes granting green cards to certain groups of undocumented immigrants and decreasing the wait time to obtain citizenship, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said in an interview on Tuesday.

Harris, speaking with Univision, said the incoming administration would automatically grant green cards to DACA (Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals) recipients as well as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and shorten by 5 years the time it takes to get U.S. citizenship.

College Campuses Are Covid-19 Superspreaders, Study Says
College campuses are at risk of becoming Covid-19 superspreaders, according to a new study.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering, looked at 30 campuses across the country with the highest amount of reported cases.

Researchers observed that more than half the institutions had spikes of more than 1,000 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people per week in the first two weeks of class.

While Awaiting a Vaccine and Debating Reopening, District Responses to Medical Accommodations for At-Risk Teachers Vary Wildly Across the Country
Longtime clerk Deanna Myron didn’t anticipate celebrating her 21st work anniversary with Curie Metropolitan High School on Chicago’s Southwest Side this way — remotely, and with an appearance on a union Zoom call talking about staff being denied medical accommodations during the pandemic.

But Myron, the daughter of a school clerk who remembers walking Curie’s halls herself as a student, felt she had little choice: her fiance has liver cancer, and her district had turned down her request for full-time remote work accommodations during COVID-19. Since getting that answer in September, Myron has used up all of her sick time and vacation days, and has been juggling spreadsheets from her home workstation five days a week while getting paid for just three days because she refuses to return to school.

Latino groups ask Biden team to push back English-language testing amid Covid concerns
“We must do everything possible to protect students’ health and not expose them unnecessarily to Covid-19,” said Sindy Benavides, LULAC’s chief executive.

Several national Latino education and civil rights groups are asking President-elect Joe Biden to push back in-person proficiency tests for students learning English as a second language amid Covid-19 concerns.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and other groups sent a letter to Biden’s education transition team on Monday, saying that in-person assessments can impose health risks for English-language learners, or ELLS.

Bonded in Exile
More than 14,000 Cuban children were brought to the U.S. undercover between 1960 and 1961.

Professor Marcos Kerbel will always remember when his mother woke him up in the middle of the night to tell him that the dictator Fulgencio Batista had left Cuba. It was the night of January 31 into January 1, 1959, and Marcos was about 14 years old when he witnessed the wave of sheer joy that flooded the streets of the island with the promise of a new beginning after seven years of harsh military repression. 

This is what he tells the History Miami Museum in a documentary that compiles the testimonies of so many young people who boarded a plane without knowing when they would see their native island again.

These Are the Queer Latinx Experimental Short Films Screening at Film Maudit Virtual Festival
Latinx short films will be a major part of the 2nd Annual Film Maudit 2.0 virtual film festival taking place Jan. 12-24. The Los Angeles-based fest was created to “showcase and celebrate new outré, unusual and startling films” that cover “socio-political issues and taboo subject matter.”

Inspired by the French Festival du Film Maudit (“cursed films”), Film Maudit 2.0 aims to “celebrate overlooked, shocking and experimental films.” This year, these films will include shorts that will screen in a section of the festival called “QLX: The Performance of Queer Latinx.”

Las Tienditas
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