TEXAS — Amid surging cases of COVID-19 in Texas schools that have caused many districts to close campuses and transition back to virtual learning, state Sen. José Menéndez, D-District 26, is urging Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath to cancel this year’s STARR test.

In a letter, Menendez cited staffing shortages across multiple school districts, causing challenges in the students’ learning as well as “mental health emergencies” among students and staff.

Menendez noted that his office has filed bills over the last two sessions of the Texas Legislature to urge the cancellation of the standardized testing.

“The STARR test has long been proven to be an unnecessary and poorly designed means of assessment,” said Menendez in his letter. “As unfair as the test is in normal times, it is beyond understanding how this test can be seen as fair assessment while our students, teachers and schools are experiencing the COVID-19 surge.”

He added that a survey conducted by his office shows  97% of the 13,000 Texans who took it voted against taking the STARR test in person.

Texas signed a four-year agreement with two companies last year to administer the STARR test. Menendez said forcing students and staff to partake in the test during the pandemic puts their lives at danger. He added that the $388 million from the agreement should be used to provide schools, teachers and students with the resources they need.

Menendez called the STARR test a “high-stakes” test in urging Abbott and Morath to cancel it. Also on board with eliminating the test is Democratic candidate for Texas governor Beto O’Rourke. The former congressman recently tweeted, “It’s time to get rid of the STAAR test.”