As Hearings Proliferate, Texas AFT Backs Important Bills

While big hearings on pre-kindergarten expansion, A-F school ratings, and full-time, online instruction via “virtual vouchers” engaged our attention this week, Texas AFT’s legislative team also took part in hearings on other important issues and took a stand on other key bills. Examples include:

–Senate Education Committee:  Texas AFT supported SB 13, a bill by Sen. Charles Perry, Republican of Lubbock, that would remove limits on dual-credit courses for students and require a middle-school course covering career options. Texas AFT also supported SB 66 by Sen. Chuy Hinojosa, Democrat of McAllen, a measure requiring schools to stockpile epinephrine auto-injectors for use with students suffering from anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction). The bill would create an advisory committee on rules to be developed for use of the auto-injectors; Texas AFT recommended that a school nurse be included on that advisory body. Other bills that earned Texas AFT support were SB 96 by Hinojosa, prohibiting use or possession of e-cigarettes on school campuses, and SB 382 by Sen. Carlos Uresti, Democrat of San Antonio, allowing continuing-education credit for educators who complete a course on the use of automated external defibrillators.

–House Business and Industry Committee:  Texas AFT supported HB 187 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, Democrat of Houston, a bill that would provide stronger legal remedies in state court against discriminatory pay practices affecting women.

–House Economic and Small Business Development Committee: Texas AFT testified in support of HB 294 by Democratic Rep. Terry Canales of Edinburg, a bill that would allow school bus drivers unemployed in the summer to qualify for unemployment benefits. Current law disqualifies them if they have been given a “reasonable assurance” of re-employment for the coming school year. As Texas AFT legislative spokesman Ted Melina Raab testified, “You can’t buy groceries with a letter of ‘reasonable assurance.”

–House Higher Education Committee: Texas AFT also supported HB 699 by Poncho Nevarez, Democrat of Eagle Pass, requiring public institutions of higher education to establish policies concerning campus sexual assaults.