News Roundup: House Bill Would Beef Up Funding For Early Childhood Intervention Program

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelMay 7, 2019 3:17 pm

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

The Texas House preliminarily approved a bill aimed at shoring up the state’s Early Childhood Intervention, or ECI, program. The program provides comprehensive therapies and services to more than 50,000 babies and toddlers, statewide, who have disabilities and developmental delays.

State Rep. Sarah Davis, a Houston-area Republican, authored House Bill 12, which is a priority bill in the lower chamber. She described some of what the legislation will do ahead of a vote at the Capitol Monday.

“This bill supports ECI families by piloting a telehealth program to provide ECI services remotely, which will provide for the potential for increased services across our state,” Davis said.

Davis also pointed out that the bill, in tandem with roughly $72 million the Texas House has allocated for ECI, will be helpful to the program and families.

“Coupled with the full funding passed by this body in House Bill 1, this legislation will provide much needed relief to providers strapped to deliver the life-changing services that little Texans across our state deserve access to,” Davis said.

Advocates say the legislature has failed to fully fund ECI since 2011. Texans Care for Children says that has led 18 nonprofit contractors to drop out of the program. In contrast to the Texas House, which wants to fully fund ECI services this session, the Texas Senate has only allocated $17 million in its version of the state budget.

The number of unvaccinated Texas kindergarteners is on the rise.

As Houston Public Media’s Eric Stone explains, a new report from the state’s health department shows more parents are opting out of vaccines under Texas exemption rules.

Last year, 1.5 to 1.6% of kindergartners across the state claimed so-called “conscientious exemptions,” but this year, the numbers are closer to 2%. That’s an increase in the exemption rate of 20 to 25%. Still, roughly 97% of kindergarteners in Texas are vaccinated.

In eight Texas counties, more than 3% of all students claim a conscientious exemption. Four of those counties are just west of Austin. Three are in northwest Texas and one is in south Texas.

Among 7th graders, vaccination coverage improved, despite a slight rise in conscientious exemptions.

Doctors say 95% coverage is necessary to protect those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons.

Federal officials are visiting six Texas school districts this week as part of an ongoing effort to monitor the state’s compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The U.S. Department of Education found Texas effectively capped the percentage of students who could access special education services.

Three districts are receiving follow-up visits from federal officials: Houston, Laredo, and Everman ISDs. The three other districts were chosen at random. They are Comal, Spring Branch and Lubbock ISDs.