Thoughts on education and transportation

REP. TRENT ASHBY

As I write this column, the holiday season is upon us. I hope this Thanksgiving season will be filled with family and loved ones; and we will have the opportunity to bow our heads in prayer, and give thanks for those around our tables and in our hearts.

TxDOT Update

This past week, I had the opportunity to travel to Tyler to meet with the five Commissioners who oversee and are responsible for governing the Texas Department of Transportation. I was able to share my thoughts on some of their proposals, such as converting farm-to-market roads to gravel in South Texas, as well as stress the importance of distributing funds more equitably to rural parts of the state. As I’ve stated before, I think transportation funding and other mobility-related issues will be a primary focus of the next legislative session.

High Drama at SBOE Hearings

A lot of attention was on the Texas State Board of Education this week in Austin as they met to consider, among several agenda items, whether or not to require Algebra II for all high school students. Legislation passed this session made several changes in the requirements for earning a high school diploma, including reducing the number of end of course assessment tests, as well no longer requiring all high school student to take Algebra II. I supported the bill because I do not believe a “one-size-fits-all” approach is best for all students, and I also strongly support local control for our schools. I am very glad that the SBOE decided to only require Algebra II for students pursuing an honors plan or a diploma with a concentration in math and science.

Drug Testing for

Unemployment Benefits

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, a federal law implemented in 2012, gave states the ability to drug test people applying for unemployment benefits if the person lost their job due to illegal drug use — or if they are seeking work in a profession that regularly conducts drug tests. We took advantage of that in Texas by passing Senate Bill 21 during the regular legislative session. The bill calls for the Texas Workforce Commission to formulate a system that would require unemployment benefit applicants to take a drug test if their responses to a written screening questionnaire indicated possible drug use. In an attempt to discourage folks from trying to take advantage of the system, a positive drug test would mean a person would be ineligible to receive benefits for a period of time. Texas became the third state to take advantage of that provision when Gov. Perry signed SB 21 into law in June, joining Kansas and Mississippi.

Contact

As always, my staff and I are available during the week at 936-634-2762 or 512-463-0508.