Zaffirini Bill Expands Parent Access to Child Care Quality Information

(AUSTIN) — The Texas Senate on Thursday (April 21) unanimously voted to expand Texas parents’ access to information about the quality of child care providers.

Senate Bill (SB) 264 by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would require local workforce boards to provide parents with information regarding quality child care indicators for each licensed or registered child care provider in the area.

“Access to accurate, timely information about the quality of child care providers is critical to parents making reasoned choices,” Senator Zaffirini said. “SB 264 would empower parents and help ensure they are informed consumers.”

Senator Zaffirini long has championed enhancing the quality of child care and early childhood education in Texas. In 2003 she passed legislation (SB 23) that created a pilot project for integrated child care programs and developed Texas’ school readiness certification system. Her SB 23 (2005) built on the success of the pilot project by expanding the integration model and increasing accountability.

“Quality child care programs can enhance a child’s language social skills, relationships with teachers and peers, self-perception and ultimately school-readiness,” said Senator Zaffirini, Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee. “What’s more, these programs provide a positive long-term economic development impact because they allow parents to re-enter the workforce with the knowledge that their children are prepared for school.”

SB 264’s supporters include the Texas Association of Business and the National Child Care Coalition.

The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. The continued progress of this and all bills authored by Senator Zaffirini can be monitored via the internet at www.legis.state.tx.us or by contacting the Texas Legislative Reference Library’s toll free in-state hotline, 1-877-824-7038.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI, D-LAREDO, is Chair of the Texas Senate Higher Education Committee. She champions legislation and funding that promote quality early childhood education.

Zaffirini Bill Extends Health Coverage to Students Awarded Fellowships, Maximizes Research Funding

(AUSTIN) — Aiming to boost research funding and enhance the stature of Texas universities, the Texas Senate on Thursday (April 14) unanimously voted to extend university health care plans to graduate students awarded fellowships.

Senate Bill (SB) 29 by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would allow universities to offer employee group health insurance to graduate students awarded post-doctoral fellowships valued at $10,000 or more per year.

“When a graduate student declines a university’s fellowship offer for any reason, including lack of health insurance, the university misses an opportunity to receive critical research funding,” Senator Zaffirini said. “SB 29 would allow Texas univeristies to recruit aggressively students with prestigious fellowships, thereby bolstering research funding and enhancing our efforts to create national research universities in Texas.”

Texas colleges and universities already are allowed to offer health benefits to teaching assistants and other graduate student employees. By comparison, students with graduate fellowships often must take second jobs, incur significant debt or forgo health insurance coverage as they seek to maximize their award.

“Graduate students who are offered fellowships are among the best and the brightest,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Because of the lack of health insurance, however, many of them decline fellowships in Texas or do not apply. SB 29 would encourage these scholars to bring their talents—and research dollars—to our state.”

SB 29 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. The continued progress of this and all bills authored by Senator Zaffirini can be monitored via the internet at www.legis.state.tx.us or by contacting the Texas Legislative Reference Library’s toll free in-state hotline, 1-877-824-7038.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI, D-LAREDO, is Chair of the Texas Senate Higher Education Committee. She champions legislation and funding that promote excellence in higher education.

Senate Votes for Zaffirini’s Bill Reforming TEXAS Grants

(AUSTIN) — The Texas Senate on Wednesday (April 6) overwhelmingly voted to pass Senate Bill (SB) 28 by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, reforming the TEXAS Grant program by prioritizing grants for high-achieving, low-income students.

“TEXAS Grants have opened the door to a college education for thousands of low-income Texas students,” Senator Zaffirini said.”Because the state does not fund the program adequately, however, 30 percent of eligible students do not receive grants. Accordingly, we must maximize limited state funding by prioritizing TEXAS grants for students who demonstrate financial need and are most likely to succeed.” SB 28 would prioritize TEXAS grant awards for high-achieving students who meet two of four eligibility criteria:

  • completing the equivalent of 12 semester credit hours of college level programs in high school (dual credit, Advanced Placement, or International Baccalaureate) or completing the Distinguished Achievement Program;
  • satisfaction of the Texas Success Initiative college readiness benchmarks on an approved assessment instrument or through qualification for an authorized exemption;
  • completing high school with a B average on a four point zero scale or graduating in the top one-third of the student’s high school class; or
  • successfully completing a mathematics course higher than Algebra II.

SB 28 would not change the requirement that a student must demonstrate financial need-an Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) of less than $4,000-to be eligible for a TEXAS Grant. Among students who meet the aforementioned criteria, top priority would be given to those with the lowest EFCs.

“SB 28 would re-focus the TEXAS Grant program on its original mission: helping low-income students who will benefit greatly from financial assistance,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Because of the grants, these students are able to afford college and be graduated timely.”

SB 28 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. The continued progress of this and all bills authored by Senator Zaffirini can be monitored via the internet at www.legis.state.tx.us or by contacting the Texas Legislative Reference Library’s toll free in-state hotline, 1-877-824-7038.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI joins Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in attending commencement ceremonies at Texas A&M International University in Laredo. As Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, Senator Zaffirini champions legislation and funding that support all Texas colleges and universities.

Texas Senate Passes Legislation Protecting Children with Food Allergies

(AUSTIN) —The Texas Senate on Tuesday (April 5) overwhelmingly voted to enhance protections for children with food allergies in Texas public schools.

Senate Bill (SB) 27 by Senators Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and John Carona, R-Dallas, would require Texas school districts to develop and implement policies based on statewide food allergy management guidelines.

“Food allergies can be life-threatening, and prevention is key,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Establishing clear guidelines for school districts to follow will save lives and prevent needless tragedies.”

SB 27 is especially timely because the incidence of food allergies is rising. In a survey of 400 elementary school nurses, 44 percent reported an increase in the number of children with food allergies in their schools over the last five years; only 2 percent reported a decrease. More than one-third of the nurses had 10 or more students with food allergies.

“Schools should be safe havens for all children, including those with food allergies,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Accordingly, children with food allergies have been among the most persuasive advocates for this legislation.” On March 14 children with food allergies and their families rallied at the Texas Capitol in support of SB 27. Speakers at the rally included children, parents, medical professionals, Senator Zaffirini and Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, who will sponsor the bill in the Texas House of Represenatives.

“This truly is a bipartisan effort,” Senator Zaffirini said. “I am grateful to Rep. Branch and to Senator Carona, R-Dallas, who strongly support SB 27 and are critical to its passage.”

The bill’s supporters include The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, the Food Allergy Initiative, the Texas Allergy Asthma & Immunology Society, the Texas School Nurses Organization, the Children’s Hospital Association of Texas and a committee of food allergy parents and advocates assembled from across the state.

In the last decade 12 states have published statewide guidance to help schools manage students with food allergies. Similar guidelines are expected to be published soon in Colorado, Missouri and Pennsylvania. Senator Zaffirini’s legislative effort to protect children with food allergies began in 2005, when she passed legislation allowing public school students to carry EPI-pens and self-administer them in the event of a severe allergic reaction.

SB 27 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. The continued progress of this and all bills authored by Senator Zaffirini can be monitored via the internet at www.legis.state.tx.us or by contacting the Texas Legislative Reference Library’s toll free in-state hotline, 1-877-824-7038.

CHILDREN WITH FOOD ALLERGIES and their families rally at the Texas Capitol in support of Senate Bill (SB) 27 by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee and a member of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Senator Zaffirini authors legislation promoting health and safety for all Texas children.