During his presentation to the State Board of Education this week, Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath reported that transmission of the Chinese coronavirus is low among public school students. He also reported a significant decline in coursework progress among middle- and low-income students forced into virtual schooling.

Wednesday’s meeting of the SBOE, the agency charged with setting curriculum standards for Texas public schools, started with Morath delivering a report that concluded the coronavirus poses a minimal threat to children in schools.

“The data is sort of growing by the week and leads us to the conclusion that … the protocols that have been put in place have made schools, all things considered for the pandemic, remarkably safe environments,” he said.

“There are cases, of course, that occur and are known for people who visit the campus,” he said.

“The overwhelming majority of those cases are people who got the virus outside of the school, not inside of the school.”

“Evidence shows in-school transmission happens exceedingly rarely,” he told the board.

Board members Marisa Perez-Diaz (District 3) and Ruben Cortez, Jr. (District 2) pushed back.

“There is some spread happening in school districts, it’s just not being widely reported,” Perez-Diaz replied.

Cortez brought up how a number of school districts in Hidalgo County want to close.

“There’s no evidence of under-reporting in Texas,” Morath replied. “The data that we have shows that schools are, all things considered, relatively safe.”

This information contradicts local officials who want local school districts to close again.

Morath also displayed a report showing the academic impact of keeping students out of classrooms. Low-income students’ progress in online math coursework decreased 55 percent from January to May of this year, with middle-income students showing a 34 percent decline.

“The COVID closures hit, and you begin to see a significant schism between the haves and have nots,” Morath said. “This trend continues to be true.”

Parents concerned about their school closing may contact their local school board members.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.