Texas GOP Launches Petition to Fully Reopen Schools

One year into the coronavirus pandemic, and even across Texas many schools remain fully or partially closed to in-person learning. Now, the Republican Party of Texas says enough is enough, declaring "we've failed our children for too long," in launching an online petition to reopen all schools. The FULLY OPEN OUR SCHOOLS NOW! petition is described as an effort to "collect the names of every Texan and American who wants to send our children back to school so that our school board members and local elected officials will finally wake up and do what is right."

Nationwide, the tide has started to shift in recent weeks toward favoring a reopening of schools. The Biden administration has listed reopening schools as a priority, and the CDC recently released new guidelines for schools to safety reopen to in-person instruction.

For many parents and stakeholders, these closures that began a year ago have simply gone on too long. "As time goes on, the more it becomes clear that students are suffering, and it's not proportional," says Erin Davis-Valdez, education policy analyst with the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The TPPF is not involved in the petition.

Davis-Valdez explains that poor and middle class families have been hurt the hardest by school closures, because these households have fewer resources to find alternative learning solutions or adapt to virtual learning. That could have devastating consequences for those students, especially younger ones. "Studies show that students who can't read by the end of third grade graduate at lower rates and often end up in the criminal justice system later in life," she says. "Now just imagine that on a large scale with students who lost a year of instruction."

Another issue that has arisen with school closures in Texas is the "disappearing" students. "One estimate is that about four-percent of school districts are missing students," says Davis-Valdez. "That equals about 250,000 students who are missing from public school enrollments."

Even the vast majority of students who aren't missing have still essentially lost a full year of their education. "The long-term consequences of a sort-of lost generation could be quite enormous for our state," says Davis-Valdez. "And it needs to be taken seriously by our lawmakers."


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