AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has given the green light for school officials — both public and private — to decide whether, when, and how to open school.
“Appointed people or people that are working for the government don’t typically have the same authority that those who are elected do,” Paxton told CBS 11 News. “And in this case, it is the elected school board or the elected Governor that get to make the call on whether schools are shut.”
The legally nonbinding letter, which was in response to a request from Stephenville Mayor Doug Svien, gives schools permission to disobey local public health orders that would stop them from reopening.
“Education of our children is an essential Texas value and there is no current statewide order prohibiting any school from opening,” said Paxton in the letter. “While local health authorities may possess some authority to close schools in limited circumstances, they may not issue blanket orders closing all schools on a purely preventative basis. That decision rightfully remains with school system leaders.”
The letter concludes: “Government action, no matter how urgent or expedient it is believed to be, may not exceed the constitutional limitations that have been placed upon it by the People. We encourage local and school system officials to work together to make the best decision, within their authority under the law, to protect the health and safety of the residents of their jurisdictions.”
During a Tuesday morning press conference, Governor Greg Abbott spoke about students returning to school.
“We have a duty to ensure we don’t lose a generation of students because of this pandemic,” he said. “We have an obligation to make sure they’re educated about reading, arithmetic and things like that.”
Abbott didn’t address Paxton’s letter, but did reiterate, “The TEA has provided flexibility to school districts across the state of Texas and has empowered local school districts to make the decisions that are best in that particular region, knowing that the spread of COVID 19 is different in different regions.”