RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (KVEO) – Texas teachers are in a position of power to serve as a vital means to jump-start the economy. Parents send their children to their local school so they can go to work.

However, with power and responsibility to educate, comes the arm twist from state and federal leaders. Do as we say, or we will withhold funds.

To ensure funds are received, districts must have a hybrid model of learning; all parents will have the option to choose remote learning for their children or in-person instruction for all grade levels without limiting how many students are in an in-person classroom setting.

The grim reality is Texas is among the highest in COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S.

Teachers have a fear those numbers will include children and/or themselves.

Nearly a third of educators are over the age of 50, “at this point, it doesn’t look like it’s possible in some of the areas where the numbers are so high to be able to safely reopen in the fall,” said Holly Eaton with Texas Classroom Teachers Association(TCTA).

TCTA is advocating for districts to create a localized plan to reopen rather than the TEA’s one-size-fits-all approach. “Your decision locally about how you open school should be made based in conjunction with your local health authorities, your local health data and of course operating within whatever parameters, health parameters, that state and federal levels have put in place,” said Eaton.

Teachers have expressed concerns about reopening under the current TEA guidelines.

 “I don’t think increasing the spread, for the start of the economy and for the start of the new school year, is anything that’s worth it,” said Ryan Santa Ana, a teacher with IDEA who is at risk for health complications if he were to contract COVID-19.

The concern comes with frustrations toward state and federal leaders who use funds as a means to extort teachers to remain employed and serves as economic drivers, political points, or profits.

After years of funding cuts and now a threat to their students’ health and their own, teachers are put in a fight or flight situation; fight for power, and to demand funds through their local elected officials.

Some are even choosing to leave education and explore other careers. “I think most of us are considering going back but I would not be surprised if people were taking a serious look at other avenues,” said Santa Ana.

There is a third option: a strike. This could, however, jeopardize their careers because “if a teacher in Texas does strike, they could lose their job and also their retirement benefits,” said Eaton.

Without any flexibility, the one-size-fits-all approach, and threat to cut funding, classroom leaders are urging Texas leaders, to do what was taught in grade school “listen to your teachers”.