Another day, another teachers’ union upset at school re-opening-related plans. Teachers in Texas condemned Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, for lifting the state’s mask mandate and re-opening the state’s entire economy.
The mask mandate was in force for eight months, and it was only one part of the coronavirus pandemic restrictions that he signed into effect last year. But his move came after Florida’s proven success in handling the pandemic while keeping its economy open: fatalities were lower than the dire predictions from public health experts even though the state did not have a mask mandate and did not force an economic shutdown.
KSAT, a Texas news outlet, reported that three Texas teachers’ organizations blasted Abbott’s move because they believed the rescinding of the mask mandate and re-opening the state economy came too soon. Texas State Teacher’s Association President Ovidia Molina said that Abbott “needs to quit obeying his political impulses and listen to the health experts, who are warning that it is too soon to let our guard down without risking potentially disastrous consequences.” Molina also advocated for teachers to be included as a top priority group in receiving coronavirus vaccinations in the statement.
Zeph Capo, head of the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union, added his criticism: “Abbott’s callous new orders throw our public schools, students, and teachers into chaos, because it leaves open the question of whether masks will be required in all schools.” One of the more outlandish parts of the statement read, “We aren’t just jeopardizing Texas, but potentially putting the entire planet at risk.”
Another union, the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, called on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to “continue to enforce best practice recommendations from health experts and the CDC to better ensure the health and safety of their students, teachers and communities.” Of the three organizations, the Texas AFT chapter and the Texas State Teacher’s Association used the most politically-charged language.
But none of the organizations acknowledged that Abbott left the decision on mask-wearing to the school districts, which is an example of local control and entrusting everyday Americans to make the best and safest decisions for themselves. For example, after Abbott’s decision, several San Antonio-area schools said they will require mask-wearing for their students. In short, it is an example of personal and individual responsibility, not a top-down authoritarian move that has become commonplace in America during the pandemic.
The TEA followed up and recommended that students continue to wear masks, but it is up to the school districts to determine their mask-wearing policies for their students, parents, teachers, and employees.