Legislative Session Ends with Victories and Disappointments for Kids


Today is the last day of a legislative session that left advocates, legislators, staffers, and other Texans absolutely drained. We battled through a pandemic, a blackout, bills ranging from disturbing to distracting, and some real disappointments from the Legislature. But we also scored some big wins for kids. And given all we’ve been through — and all we’ve accomplished — I couldn’t be more proud of our team.

Below I’ll cover some session highlights, low points, and key next steps. If you want to see the list of what passed and didn’t pass, check out our preliminary session recap report covering children’s mental health, early education (including child care), maternal and child health, and child protection:


After the Governor’s veto period ends on June 20th, we’ll publish a full report looking back on the session. I also encourage you to register for our virtual briefing recapping the legislative session on Tuesday, July 6th at 11:00 am.

Now let’s take a look back at the session, starting with some victories.

Working with partners and legislative allies, our team played a leadership role in successful efforts to: 

  • Ensure moms have six months of health coverage after childbirth instead of just two months;
  • Cut down on eligible kids losing their health insurance — and missing doctor’s appointments — due to inaccurate eligibility reviews; 
  • Stop a concerning budget cut — initially passed by the Senate — to Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) funding for toddlers with disabilities and delays;
  • Put an end to overcrowded pre-k classes so more kids become strong readers by third grade, a bill that had languished at the Legislature for over a decade; 
  • Equip teachers to support English Learners in special education and develop a state strategic plan to support bilingualism, both recommendations of our new Texas Early Childhood English Learner Initiative;
  • Improve support for students’ social-emotional learning (SEL) by incorporating key SEL skills into school curricula and programs and by opening up a funding stream for districts to provide SEL programs;
  • Prevent youth suicide by improving practices in foster care facilities and ensuring data-informed suicide prevention strategies are included in state interagency coordination and strategic planning efforts;
  • Support kids in foster care by moving children with high needs from institutionalized facilities to loving families as quickly as possible, improving support for older youth in foster care, and developing more foster care placements for unique populations, such as pregnant and parenting youth and trafficking survivors; and
  • Take big budget cuts for kids and families off the table from Day One of the legislative session after last year’s warnings of major cuts.

We also played a supporting role in a number of victories that our coalition partners and legislative allies championed — like the successful package of child care bills. For example, legislators passed a landmark bill to improve the quality of child care that kids receive from providers in the subsidy system and a bill to create a plan to support the child care workforce. The Legislature also passed important legislation to let school counselors focus more on counseling. As lawmakers quietly passed major bills to rework the child protection system, we appreciate that legislators incorporated many of our suggestions throughout the session. We’re also pleased to see the defeat of harmful legislation, such as bills targeting transgender children and their parents.

There were also real disappointments in some of the issues we work on — especially health care. The biggest blunder was state leaders’ failure to take any action to draw down federal Medicaid expansion funding to cover 1.4 million uninsured adults. A proposal to reinstate the Office of Health Equity was taken off the table, too. There was a lot of talk about the impact of the pandemic on student mental health, yet the Legislature did little to ensure schools are prepared to respond to the effects of trauma and grief on student learning and behavior. In the midst of a disturbing shortage of foster care homes and services, we’re concerned that the Legislature failed to boost funding for foster care reimbursement rates or for the child abuse and neglect prevention services that keep kids safe and out of foster care. Similarly, while we were glad to avoid cuts to women’s health programs and ECI for toddlers with disabilities, the flat funding approved by the Legislature falls short of Texans’ needs.

In the coming days we’ll take some time off to recharge and then plot the way forward. We’ll encourage federal and state officials to work together to quickly implement HB 133 to extend moms’ health coverage after pregnancy. During June, we’ll also urge state leaders’ to submit an 1115 Medicaid waiver funding request to the federal government that continues hospital funding to cover the bills of uninsured Texans who end up in the hospital; expands health coverage so currently uninsured Texans can get healthy and stay out of the hospital; and supports community mental health services. This summer and into the fall, we’ll be working with our partners and state agencies on the implementation of bills that passed this session. We’ll evaluate how well the scaled-back version of HB 290 keeps eligible kids enrolled in their health insurance and monitor the impact of other bills. And of course, we’ll be gearing up for the fall special session when lawmakers tackle the allocation of federal COVID relief funding.

In closing, I want to express our deep gratitude. Let’s start with lawmakers, even if we don’t have space here to thank everyone who deserves our appreciation. I want to particularly recognize Speaker Phelan, Chair Kolkhorst, and Rep. Rose for their persistent efforts to extend postpartum health coverage and address other children’s issues; Chair Button and Rep. Bernal for their leadership on early childhood policy, including the launch of the Early Childhood Caucus; Rep. Talarico for his success on pre-k, child care, and SEL bills; Rep. Guerra for passing multiple bills to support young English Learners; Rep. Cortez and Sen. Zaffirini for leading the charge for children’s health coverage; Sen. Menéndez for his steadfast efforts on pre-k, child protection, and suicide prevention; Rep. Neave and Rep. Hunter for strengthening suicide prevention policies; Sen. Powell and Rep. Jarvis Johnson for doing the heavy lifting to support older youth in foster care; Rep. White for his hard work to support youth in both the child protection and juvenile justice systems; Rep. Coleman and Rep. Julie Johnson for their passionate health care advocacy; Sen. Johnson for fighting for SEL in schools and access to health care; and Chair Frank for his collaboration with us on numerous health and human services issues. Of course, none of this would be possible without the exceptional staff for these and other members of the Legislature.

I also want to thank all of you who contributed in so many different ways this session — working with us on key bills, lifting our spirits when we were down, or making a donation to keep our work going. Thank you for all your support!