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HB5 Business Partners Tell Lawmakers A Lack Of Liability Insurance Is Problematic

Ryan E Poppe
Texas House Public Education and Economic Development and Small Business Joint Committee

State lawmakers singled out a partnership between businesses and schools in San Antonio saying San Antonio Works is a good example of how private-public partnerships can help students become career and college ready.  

Career and college readiness was a focus of House Bill 5 which created so-called diploma programs. In eighth grade students identify a diploma program or area of focus for their high school studies. 

The programs have provided an opportunity for businesses to engage with schools to create practical study programs that lead to degrees and jobs after high school.

Because many business were unaware of how to become involved  the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and area schools formed San Antonio Works, which helps connect local businesses with the schools teaching these career-ready programs.

Kate Rogers is the vice president of corporate communications for H-E-B, who is a business partner for San Antonio Works

“When I started down this journey and started to educate myself about what’s going on in the high schools, you realize how far removed you are.  I think business people underestimate what high school students are capable of.  We have found from the interns that we have brought on at H-E-B that not only are their technical skills sound, but they just look at things in a different way," Rogers said.

Rogers says that in order for the school and business partnership to work, local businesses need to have input into a school’s curriculum.  Classes need to be relevant to the workplace.

Currently, an estimated 70 San Antonio businesses are partnering with one or more Bexar County school district for programs under House Bill 5

Some smaller mom and pop companies and rural businesses say they’re often reluctant to participate in these student training programs because that will increase liability insurance.  Donna McKethan is with the Waco school district and told lawmakers about the struggle these smaller businesses wrestle with when it comes to whether or not to participate in the program.

“So for example I’ve got several welding companies that are our partners, but if I say can I put this 17-year old in your job for a summer internship the answer is always ‘No’, because there is no means for me to insure the liability of that student," McKethan explained.

McKethan and others testifying before the House committee asked lawmakers to adopt laws that will allow these businesses to participate, without risking huge liability insurance bills.