Texas Insider Report: AUSTIN, Texas – (Houston, TX) – Senator Bettencourt (R-Houston) lauded the decision by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R-Texas) to make clear that local health departments do not have the authority to preemptively shut down Texas schools. Currently roughly 3.2 million of the 5.5 million students in Texas live in seventeen counties where local health departments have ordered schools to be preemptively closed. The Attorney General makes clear that local health departments are able to perform clean up on specific areas after an event has occurred.
“Common sense prevails with this opinion by Attorney General Paxton,” said Senator Bettencourt. “Let the school districts try to open under the plan offered by the Texas Education Agency which has a lot of built in flexibility for either virtual or in classroom learning. What we cannot have is local health departments jumping the gun and taking their focus away from hotspot clean up.”
This opinion from the Attorney General, among other things, states the following:
- Local health authorities may not issue sweeping orders closing schools for the sole purpose of preventing future COVID-19 infections. Rather, their role is limited by statute to addressing specific, actual outbreaks of disease.
- The decision to close schools on a preventative basis, whether public or private, remains with the school system leaders.
- School district trustees have the exclusive power and duty to govern and oversee the management of the public schools of the district.
“The opinion by the Attorney General should be respected by the school districts, local health departments, and especially the County Judges who I call on to follow this common sense AG opinion,” he added.
The Texas Education Agency, after extensive study and working with Governor Abbott (R-Texas), Lt. Governor Patrick (R-Texas), Speaker Bonnen (R-Angleton), various committee chairs, and many of those working in the school system in Texas, previously released comprehensive guidelines for a safe return to on campus instruction for the upcoming school year. (See more at: https://bit.ly/2Cvrmoy) Their guidance has provided flexibility to school districts to start the year virtually or in a hybrid model for classroom instruction.
“Let’s use this opinion to give the decision on opening schools back to the school boards, the teachers, the parents, and families of students,” continued Senator Bettencourt. “Reopening of schools can be done in a safe manner, as prescribed by the CDC and many medical doctor’s opinions. It is better for kids to have the option of in person instruction, especially for special needs, foster children, and low socio-economic students et al, by any measure I understand,” concluded Senator Bettencourt, a member of both the Senate Education and Higher Education Committees.