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In Divisive Texas Policy Climate, Advocates Build Consensus on Early Childhood Legislation

In spite of a highly charged and combative state legislative session that made national headlines, allies in Texas, CHILDREN AT RISK and Texans Care for Children, worked to make sure support for early childhood issues maintained bipartisan support — and their efforts paid off with one of the more productive legislative sessions for children and families. 

The Early Childhood Legislative Caucus, launched in 2021 helped create a sense of urgency surrounding bills for young children and families. The bipartisan caucus worked closely with Texas advocates, including Alliance allies, to pass these bills, some of which had failed in past sessions. The Prenatal to Three Collaborative also led advocacy efforts that included voices from business leaders, child care providers, and others that represent Texas’ geographic and demographic diversity. Allies claimed victories for early care and education, dual language learners, and health coverage for mothers and children. Allies also defeated budget cuts for infants and toddlers, continuing efforts from the last legislative session. Together, these successes demonstrate the progress advocates have made in elevating the value of child care and investing in supports that better serve Texan children and families. 

 Wins for Early Care and Education

 Child care issues in Texas have historically been a focus of local communities but became a state priority with strong bipartisan support during the 2021 session. CHILDREN AT RISK created child care desert maps and disseminated information on COVID-19 related child care closures. Additionally, the allies spearheaded the Early Childhood Education Coalition that emphasized the importance of increasing access to affordable quality child care and strengthening the early childhood workforce. Due to these efforts, four bills were passed that improve Texas’ early childhood education system.

  • HB 2607 – requires subsidy providers to participate in the state’s previously voluntary quality rating and improvement system known as Texas Rising Star. 
  • HB 1792 – streamlines the evaluation of child care providers participating in the Texas Rising Star system.
  • HB 619requires the Texas Workforce Commission to collect additional data and develop a strategic plan to support a sustainable child care workforce.
  • SB 1555brings financial relief to providers and incentivizes high-quality care by increasing state reimbursement rates.

Texans Care for Children launched an initiative with assistance from local communities in 2020 to support young emergent bilingual learners. Moreover, allies received technical assistance from the Migration Policy Institute which helped inform the Texas Early Childhood English Learner Initiative Policy Roadmap. Due to these efforts, four bills were passed that will address the challenges emergent bilingual children face.

  • HB 2256builds a pipeline of school leaders equipped to effectively serve the educational needs of emergent bilingual children with disabilities and developmental delays in pre-k through 12th grade. 
  • SB 560includes tangible goals and timelines to increase the number of educators certified in bilingual education, increase the number of one-way and two-way dual language programs, educate families and school districts on the importance of bilingual education, and adopt a uniform process for identifying emergent bilingual students in pre-k through 12th grade.
  • SB 2066changes the term “limited English proficient” to “emergent bilingual,” a term better reflecting students’ bilingual potential and strengths.
  • SB 2081sets a new pre-k class size cap of 22 students. Manageable pre-k class sizes will help students of all linguistic backgrounds be ready for Kindergarten and strong readers by third grade. 

Despite these legislative wins, Texas felt a few losses that advanced the early care and education system. Those losses include: 

  • HB 1964 – would have required a statewide study to understand the true cost of quality child care.
  • SB 971 – would have ensured a stable supply of high-quality child care for low-income children by improving contracted slot agreements.

Our allies will continue working with community partners and the caucus to build momentum for the 2023 legislative session.

Progress for Maternal and Child Health

Texas allies also made progress on health care policies, including HB 133, which extends health coverage to six months for mothers after childbirth. In addition, HB 290 prevents the state from mistakenly removing children from Medicaid during a midyear eligibility review.

Advocates in Texas also successfully defeated proposed cuts to Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) for infants and toddlers with disabilities and developmental delays. The legislature initially proposed a significant reduction from the previous $342 million in the state budget. Allies responded quickly to the proposals and maintained level funding for ECI by securing $339 million for ECI.

Despite a session faced with many challenges, allies are proud of their efforts to build consensus on early childhood legislation.

“This session, the Texas Legislature made important progress supporting young children in both pre-k and child care so they are ready to succeed in school. Furthermore, policymakers took critical steps to better support young emergent bilingual students so they become strong readers by third grade and master both English and their home language.” 

David Feigen, Early Childhood Policy Associate
Texans Care for Children

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