Outrageous New City of Austin Order Delaying School Reopening is Unconstitutional, Unjustified Power Grab

Outrageous New City of Austin Order Delaying School Reopening is Unconstitutional, Unjustified Power Grab

Order Threatens Religious and Private School, Predicts Death Rate of 1000x Current Rate

AUSTIN – Not only is the new order prohibiting in-person classes in schools within Austin rife with potential legal hurdles and probable constitutional rights violations, it also goes against the rights of parents and elected school boards, the chairman of the Travis County Republican Party said this morning.

According to a mandate issued by Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority for the City of Austin, all schools within the city limits that offer any classroom instruction from pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade are prohibited from gathering in person until Sept. 8.

This order includes religious and private schools, not just public schools. Extracurricular activities including summer football practice, band rehearsals, and any number of other activities are also presumed to be prohibited.

"This outrageous order is unconstitutional and unjustified and parents across Austin should be irate,” said Matt Mackowiak, Travis County Republican Party chairman. “We urge every parent to call their Superintendent and school Principal, and to call the Mayor and their City Council member to express their outrage at this order. Dr. Escott should immediately reconsider the scope of this drastic rule and immediately withdraw it.”

Mackowiak continued: "Many of the summer activities now forbidden are outdoors in nature and may be done while maintaining CDC, state, and city of Austin safety guidelines. Schools have spent their summer making some difficult and well-informed decisions on reopening campuses. What is the public health difference between children going to a daycare versus going to a small classroom?”

Mackowiak questions whether the order will stand legal muster, especially under the First Amendment which protects freedom of religious activities such as church and parochial schools.

The unilateral order is also accompanied by a false premise. 
According to local media, Escott stated before the Travis County Commissioners Court that the fatality rate for school-age children is 1.02%. On the contrary, he overstated it by a factor of 1,000. For ages 5-9 years, the fatality rate is .0016% and for  ages 10-19 is at .00032% according to a published study relayed by The Austin American-Statesman on Wednesday.

There is also the matter of Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order which grants the city some authority in this area, which expires in mid-August.

"Perhaps Dr. Escott should focus instead on other mass gatherings in the city, such as protests against the Austin police and homeless camps throughout the city, in which participants are not likely to engage in the kinds of careful safety measures that are necessary and were planned by schools ready to reopen," Mackowiak said.

The Travis County Republican Party supports the conservative principles of the Republican Party and elects candidates up and down the ballot in the greater Austin metro area. For more information visit 
www.TravisGOP.com.

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  • Catherine Bedell
    commented 2020-07-16 11:43:43 -0500
    Thank you for posting. I strongly agree that this Order disproportionally impacts private schools and other schools that have a plan and are ready to re-open safely. If private schools are closed indefinitely, it has the potential to put some out of business. Funding for private schools is not protected by the public health order, but funding for the public schools is protected. Schools that have a plan and are ready to re-open safely (and the families they serve) should not be penalized waiting for other schools to formulate or revise their plans.

    A virtual learning program disproportionally impacts elementary students and their parents. In-person, small group instruction is critical in early childhood education. Young children cannot learn effectively, connect with their teachers, socialize with their peers and be expected to remain on task in front of an ipad all day. Parents cannot work (either in a business or from home) and facilitate their young child’s virtual learning program simultaneously, and young children are not reasonably able to facilitate it themselves. This negatively impacts our children and negatively impacts our economy.

    We need to prioritize in-person education for early elementary students and allow a path for schools that have a plan and are ready to re-open safely to do so. I am asking Dr. Escott, Gov. Abbott, Mayor Adler, and the Austin City Counsel, to revise the July 14 Order (or any renewed or revised public health order after September 7 regarding the same) to state that it does not apply to private schools or any schools that have submitted their plans for safe school reopening and are ready to re-open.