Federal

Texas Gets Closer To Health Plan for Teachers

By Bess Keller — May 09, 2001 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Texas lawmakers have taken long strides toward a deal to help provide health insurance for school employees, though the final arrangement will almost certainly fall short of what teachers originally said they wanted.

Early last week, the House of Representatives unanimously approved a measure designed both to ease the woes of school districts trying to find affordable coverage for their employees and give additional insurance help to teachers.

Two days later, the Senate education committee passed a significantly different bill that has now gone to the full chamber.

Both the House and the Senate legislation would establish the state’s first health-insurance program for school system employees, thereby adding Texas to the long list of states that help with teacher medical costs.

Neither measure would provide coverage comparable to that received by employees of the state government under their plan, which includes help with dependents’ medical costs. Such features have been sought by the state’s four teacher groups, which made health insurance their top legislative priority this year.

Still, Rep. Ignacio Salinas called the House bill a good start, especially in today’s tighter fiscal climate. “What’s important here is we finally have a mechanism to provide health care for all education employees in the state, and money to the school districts to provide this very valuable benefit,” said Mr. Salinas, a Democrat who is also the president of the 60,000-member Texas State Teachers Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association.

Contrasting Measures

Under the House bill, the health- insurance program would cover smaller school districts starting in 2002 and then be made available to larger districts starting in 2005, with the state picking up a large share of the cost. In addition, all 590,000 school employees statewide would initially receive an additional $1,000 toward health-care costs— or to use in any manner the employee chooses. The price tag for the entire program would be $1.3 billion annually.

The Senate bill, in contrast, would offer a health-insurance plan to all districts by the 2002 starting date, but no money to individual employees. It would cost the state about $1 billion a year, and because of its funding mechanism would require voter approval for a change in the Texas Constitution.

Legislative leaders, including the heads of both education committees, also called a health-insurance plan an important step for Texas schools, which are facing worsening teacher shortages. District and teacher leaders complained that much of the $3,000 raise in teacher salaries granted by lawmakers in the last session has, in many districts, been eaten up by rising health-care costs.

Democratic Rep. Paul Sadler, the chairman of the House education committee, won a standing ovation from his colleagues for devising the plan, which was mulled by a special committee assembled by Speaker of the House James E. “Pete” Laney.

“We’ve been working on these issues for 20 years,” said Jeri Stone, the executive director of the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, an independent teacher group with 43,000 members. “The fact that they have a bill out that does something for everybody is, in and of itself, really good progress.”

Teachers’ groups generally favor the House plan over the one now in the Senate. That’s because, under the House version, whether or not state money ended up improving the coverage offered to school employees in a particular district, teachers would receive money directly that they could use to buy extra coverage, if they wished.

Either plan would likely ease the plight of the hundreds of small Texas districts that either have been unable to get health insurance for their employees or have had little choice of carriers.

The House and the Senate have until the session ends on May 28 to work out their differences.

A version of this article appeared in the May 09, 2001 edition of Education Week as Texas Gets Closer To Health Plan for Teachers

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Citing Educator and Parent Anxieties, Senators Press Biden Officials on Omicron Response
Lawmakers expressed concern about schools' lack of access to masks and coronavirus tests, as well as disruptions to in-person learning.
5 min read
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, left, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president, testify before a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine the federal response to COVID-19 and new emerging variants, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, left, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president, testify at a Senate hearing about the federal response to COVID-19.
Greg Nash/Pool via AP
Federal Miguel Cardona Should Help Schools Push Parents to Store Guns Safely, Lawmakers Say
More than 100 members of Congress say a recent shooting at a Michigan high school underscores the need for Education Department action.
3 min read
Three Oakland County Sheriff's deputies survey the grounds outside of the residence of parents of the Oxford High School shooter on Dec. 3, 2021, in Oxford, Mich.
Three Oakland County Sheriff's deputies survey the grounds outside of the Crumbley residence while seeking James and Jennifer Crumbley, parents of Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley, on Dec. 3, 2021, in Oxford, Mich.
Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP
Federal In Reversal, Feds Seek to Revive DeVos-Era Questions About Sexual Misconduct by Educators
The Education Department's decision follows backlash from former education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other conservatives.
4 min read
Illustration of individual carrying binary data on his back to put back into the organized background of 1s and 0s.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Federal Biden Administration Lays Out Its Top Priorities for Education Grants
The pandemic's impact and a diverse, well-prepared educator workforce are among areas the administration wants to fund at its discretion.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington on Aug. 5, 2021.
U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during a White House briefing.
Susan Walsh/AP