A Bill Requiring Three-Point Seat Belts On New School Buses Is Headed To The Governor’s Desk

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Michael MarksMay 28, 2017 9:23 am

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

School buses in Texas could become safer thanks to a bill approved by the legislature. But participation in the program wouldn’t be mandatory.

Allison Lee with Houston Public Media reports:

A new law has reached Governor Abbott’s desk requiring all newly-purchased school buses to have three-point seat belts. This applies only to new models. Opponents of the bill worry about creating an unfunded state mandate. But schools can opt out of this mandate, by holding a vote at a public meeting.

The bill’s author, state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, says it’s different than a failed similar law in the past.

“This bill is so different because it says you need to do it, just readjust your plans. But if you really can’t do it because you can’t afford it, you can opt out. We’re leaving that to the local level,” she said..

Some districts already mandate three-point belts on newly purchased buses. HISD made that switch in 2015, but they say over half of their fleet still has no seat belts at all.

“Every child should have a seat belt on a school bus,” Chenine Chatman said, while testifying for the bill last month. She lost her daughter in a 2015 HISD school bus crash. ‘

“I’m going to continue to advocate for bus safety and seat belts on all of our Texas school buses,” she said.

If Governor Abbott signs the bill into law, it will take effect on September 1.

With less than a week left in the 85th Texas Legislature, lawmakers are trying to bridge a divide on school accountability.

In 2015, legislators agreed to use an A through F scale to grade schools overall. But many educators said the system is too simple, and didn’t paint an accurate picture of a school’s performance.

Each chamber has different ideas on how to fix that.

Eva-Marie Ayala is an education reporter for the Dallas Morning News.

“You know the House version wants to push the new grading system back to 2019,” Ayala says “and they don’t want the overall grade for schools. They say that could really stigmatize some of the poor schools. The Senate’s ready to go next year and wants to have that overall grade saying it’s key for communities to know what’s going on in their schools.”

The final day of the regular legislative session is Monday, May 29.

New details have emerged about a jaguar that escaped from its enclosure in a Texas zoo last week.

Officials at the Abilene Zoo say the big cat scaled a 12-foot artificial rock wall, then forced her way under an 8-inch gap at the top of the enclosure.

The jaguar got into a spider monkey cage and fatally wounded one of the primates.

The incident happened before the zoo opened, and officials said there was no risk to public safety.