Gov. Greg Abbott stressed Tuesday that only local school boards, not local governments, have the power to decide how to open schools this fall during the coronavirus pandemic.
"The bottom line is the people who know best ... about that are the local school officials," Abbott said during a news conference in San Antonio, echoing a message he's been relaying in response to questions about the process.
Texas educators and parents have been confused about who has the power to keep school buildings closed. They have also been frustrated by conflicting messages from state and local leaders.
Abbott also said that in preparation for the new school year, the state has already distributed to schools more than 59 million masks, more than 24,000 thermometers, more than 565,000 gallons of hand sanitizer and more than 500,000 face shields. He promised schools "will have their [personal protective equipment] needs met at no cost" to them, with the state picking up the tab.
In general, he described the state's personal protective equipment levels as bountiful even as the state faces an "an even greater strain" on the supply due to the coming school reopenings and flu season.
Abbott and other state leaders have backed a legal opinion from Attorney General Ken Paxton that prohibits local health authorities from issuing blanket school closures for all schools in their jurisdiction before the academic year begins. Local school boards can decide to keep schools closed to in-person learning for up to eight weeks, with the possibility to apply for waivers to remain shuttered beyond that timeframe.
Under the state's guidance, local health officials can only intervene if there is an outbreak once students return to campus, at which point they can temporarily shut down a school.
Abbott stressed Tuesday that the policy does not mean that local health authorities are cut out of the reopening process, saying local school boards are free to consult with the health experts.
"Nothing is stopping them from doing that, and they can fully adopt whatever strategy the local public health authority says," Abbott said.
The state's guidance has overruled orders from local health authorities to keep schools closed to in-person learning for certain periods. For example, Metro Health in Bexar County had ordered schools to remain virtual until Sept. 7.
As for the personal protective equipment for schools, the Texas State Teachers Association said it was not nearly enough.
"The governor's optics today on PPE is a drop in the bucket, compared to what will be needed if schools are forced to reopen before it's safe," the union's president, Ovidia Molina, said in a statement. "59.4 million masks are roughly 11 masks per student. That might get students through the first week of school."
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Communities are rallying together after an 18-year-old shot and killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Funds from organizations all around the state–including from Austin’s own Los Verdes–are being raised to support families affected by the tragedy. Here's how you can help.
If you are looking for ways to help, please consider donating blood. Your donation can help ensure we have supplies immediately available for the victims of this tragic shooting.— University Health (@UnivHealthSA) May 24, 2022
Our donor room has availability the rest of the week. Please schedule online: https://t.co/0F2lKDqYzO
Austin-area residents can donate blood with We Are Blood.
South Texas Blood & Tissue was able to send a total of 25 units of blood both to the school and local hospitals to support treatment. After an emergency blood drive on Wednesday, the blood center is hosting a Memorial Day blood drive and should have appointments opening the following week.
The largest blood transfuser in the San Antonio area, the University Health System, is also asking members of the community to donate blood. Appointments may be scarce due to demand.
The Los Verdes community is heartbroken at today's senseless act of gun violence in Uvalde that ended 15 lives too early. We are currently raising funds to support the families who lost loved ones today, and you can join by donating here. https://t.co/52L1ZtbSND— Los Verdes (@LosVerdesATX) May 24, 2022
There is a growing list of verified fundraisers through GoFundMe, where almost $2 million has been raised so far for families and victims of the tragedy.
- The VictimsFirst fundraiser is raising $2 million to provide “100% of what is collected” to the victims’ family members.
- Austin-based Los Verdes Supporter Group is raising $100,000 for the families “affected by the horrific school shooting at Robb Elementary.”
- Allison McCullough, the aunt of victim Makenna Lee Elrod, is raising $50,000 for her family.
- The Alithia Ramirez funeral fund is working on raising $8,000 for the young girl’s funeral.
- More are being added by the hour.
An official account with First State Bank has been set up for donations through UCISD to assist the families of this tragedy.— Uvalde CISD (@Uvalde_CISD) May 25, 2022
Please know that the FSB account, is the only verified location to make any monetary donations. No other source is currently recognized. pic.twitter.com/psQb6fD6Ls
Uvalde CISD has opened an account to support families of the victims with the First State Bank of Uvalde. Checks to donate should be made payable to the "Robb School Memorial Fund" or through Zelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The League of United Latin American Citizens has created a fund for victims, which it says will donate 100% to families and University Health has also organized the Uvalde Victims Relief Fund to help provide care for victims.H-E-B has also donated $500,000 to aid victims and is collecting donations for its Spirit of Giving Fund, which supports philanthropic efforts in the wake of Texas tragedies. Starting Wednesday, shoppers at H-E-B, Central Market, Joe V’s Smart Shop and Mi Tienda can donate at checkout or online.
By Patrick Svitek
Beto O'Rourke caused a dramatic scene on Wednesday when he angrily confronted Gov. Greg Abbott at his news conference about the Uvalde school shooting, yelling, "This is on you."
After Abbott was done giving his initial remarks, O'Rourke approached the stage and told Abbott he was "doing nothing" to combat gun violence. He said the Uvalde massacre, in which a gunman killed 19 children and two adults, was "totally predictable."
Some of the Republican officials onstage with Abbott quickly denounced O'Rourke, telling him to go away. Another man onstage used expletives to criticize O'Rourke for interrupting the event. O'Rourke was eventually escorted away amid the unruly scene.
“I can’t believe that you’re a sick son of a bitch that would come to a deal like this to make a political issue,” Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin told O'Rourke at one point.
.@BetoORourke just showed up and shook things up. @statesmanpic.twitter.com/Z1FtBwUEdJ
— Luz Moreno-Lozano 🦇 (@LuzMorenoLozano) May 25, 2022