When children are healthy during the first years of life, they are more likely to maintain a healthy weight throughout their childhood, be successful in school, and achieve lifelong health. Unfortunately, Texas children as young as two are already on track to grow up at an unhealthy weight. With the majority of young Texas children spending significant portions of the day in child care settings, Texas parents need child care providers to be a strong partner in providing healthy food and drinks and plenty of active play time. Fortunately, there are steps state leaders can take to help parents identify healthier child care providers and ensure child care providers partner with parents in supporting healthy kids.
Research shows effective pre-k programs improve school readiness and academic achievement, reducing the need to provide special education services and helping more students advance to the next grade level on time. To harness the power of pre-k, Texas should build on the state’s new High Quality Pre-k Grant Program to improve the quality of and access to pre-k.
Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) is one of the state's main programs for influencing children's trajectory during the developmentally critical years of early childhood and ensuring that more students start kindergarten ready to succeed. The proposed Medicaid rate cuts for children's therapies would adversely affect the community organizations that provide ECI services, which are distinct from the home health agencies at the center of the rate controversy. After past budget cuts to ECI, legislators should ensure full funding and support is provided to the program and the children with disabilities and delays who rely on it.
Research shows that child to caregiver ratios in child care centers is one of the most important indicators of quality. Yet some Texas children - particularly those who are from low-income families and have the greatest need for positive experiences in child care - are stuck in large classes.
Texas currently provides schools districts with funding for voluntary, half-day pre-K for four-year-olds who come from low-income families, speak English as a second language, or have another area of need.
While HB 4 and SB 801 are aimed at improving quality in Texas Public Pre-K, the quality requirements outlined do not achieve the National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER) definition of a quality program.