Our Policy Recommendations for the 2023 Legislative Session

When the Texas Legislature convenes in January, lawmakers will grapple with many of the persistent challenges that have faced kids and families for years. Before children even start school in Texas, they face gaps across multiple issue areas that undermine school readiness. Similarly, too many school-age children in Texas aren’t getting the support they need to succeed inside and outside the classroom and stay healthy.

But this session will also be different in a number of ways:

  • Legislators on both sides of the aisle have vowed that children, moms, and families will be a priority this session — with bipartisan momentum around bills on health care, foster care, child care, mental health, and more.
  • The Legislature will have an unprecedented extra $27 billion in revenue, plus $13.6 billion in the Rainy Day Fund.
  • Kids are hurting because of significant workforce challenges at state agencies and the community organizations that carry out state policies to support kids. 
  • There are two particular areas with bipartisan support — child care and student mental health — that need bold state investments after years of challenges have turned into full blown crises and as federal pandemic relief funding is scheduled to end for both priorities.

To address these challenges and opportunities during the 2023 legislative session, today we are releasing 25 policy recommendations to state leaders. For example, we’re calling on the Legislature to:

  • Leverage the additional revenue to make bold new investments to address the crises in child care and student mental health.
  • Leverage the additional revenue to support current investments that are underfunded, such as Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) services for toddlers with disabilities, programs that help safely keep kids out of foster care, and the workforce at HHSC and other agencies.
  • Pass important bills that have strong bipartisan momentum, including bills to ensure maternal health coverage is available for a full year after pregnancy, eligible kids can enroll in health coverage, and more children in foster care can be placed with loving families rather than living in motel rooms or foster facilities.



Child Protection

Ensuring more children can stay safely with their families and out of foster care and supporting and protecting children who do enter foster care.

  • Ensure more children and their caregivers have access to mental health, substance use, and parent skill-building services proven to keep children safely with their families and out of foster care: 

    – Support the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) funding request for Prevention and Child Wellbeing (PCW);

    – Extend the HB 3041 pilot projects and invest general revenue in evidence-based services offered through those pilots;

    – Require DFPS to submit a Title IV-E Prevention Plan that expands eligibility for children and families, so the state may begin drawing down federal matching funds for family preservation services; and

    – Establish a stakeholder workgroup to explore expanding FFPSA implementation through a “Community Pathways” approach.
  • Ensure more children in foster care are placed with families, not in facilities, by increasing support for grandparents and other “kinship” caregivers and supporting “Foster Care Rate Modernization.” 
  • Support the foster care facilities reform package recommended in the report commissioned by the Legislature (SB 1575 from 2021) to strengthen the quality of behavioral health services for children in foster care, ensure children only remain in Residential Treatment Centers when necessary, and ensure children understand why they may benefit from specific interventions.
  • Direct local juvenile boards to develop policies that divert youth in foster care from the juvenile justice system when safe and appropriate. 
  • Implement a pilot program to assist youth transitioning out of foster care with achieving financial independence by establishing bank accounts.

Maternal and Child Health
Ensuring access to health coverage, Early Childhood Intervention, and other support for healthy mothers and children.

  • Improve enrollment of eligible children in health coverage, such as Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP):

    – Remove unintended barriers by investing in Texas 2-1-1 call centers, modernizing the YourTexasBenefits website and app, and investing in the HHSC (Health and Human Services Commission) eligibility workforce; 

    – Adopt Express Lane Eligibility so the state can use already-verified information through SNAP to streamline a child’s health coverage enrollment; and 

    – Clarify and streamline enrollment for eligible newborn babies of a parent covered by Medicaid or CHIP perinate. 
  • Increase state investments in Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) to address falling per-child funding levels and serve all eligible infants and toddlers with disabilities. 
  • Fully fund critical health programs for women and children, including Medicaid, CHIP, Healthy Texas Women, and the Family Planning Program, and fund the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) maternal and child health division, including the TexasAIM initiative.
  • Extend maternal Medicaid coverage for 12 months after pregnancy — using a fast-track “State Plan Amendment” rather than seeking a slow and uncertain Medicaid waiver — to support healthy mothers and babies.
  • Establish Medicaid reimbursement for doulas and lactation consultants so new mothers have options to support healthy pregnancies and postpartum recovery. 
  • Adopt health insurance options for adults under the poverty line.

Children’s Mental Health
Ensuring parents are able to find mental health support for their children at school and in their community. 

  • Begin to dedicate funding to school districts to support strategies that contribute to a positive school climate; prevent and address social, emotional and behavioral concerns among students; and connect the families of students with identified mental health concerns to services when needed.
  • Increase children’s mental health funding to Local Mental Health Authorities and Local Behavioral Health Authorities to maintain staffing levels and meet the growing demand for youth mental health services.

Early Learning
Ensuring parents have high-quality, affordable early childhood education options for their young kids, including child care and pre-k, so parents can go to work and their children receive the enriching early learning opportunities they need.

  • Address the shortage of quality child care in communities by providing bedrock state funding to help offset child care programs’ fixed costs, such as educator wages and property taxes; and enact recommendations from the state’s Child Care Workforce Strategic Plan (created by HB 619 from 2021) to address the worsening child care staff turnover and vacancy crisis.
  • Ensure Local Workforce Development Boards, which are charged with overseeing and implementing regional child care strategies, have the standards and supports needed to maximize funding, improve transparency, and enroll as many families as possible in high-quality child care. 
  • Ensure high-quality child care providers that serve children receiving financial assistance, known as subsidies, are reimbursed at the highest-available state rate, rather than what families in different neighborhoods can afford to pay. 
  • Incentivize partnerships between public schools and high-quality child care providers to increase enrollment in effective early learning programs and offer parents more options. 
  • Establish dedicated full-day pre-k funding, improving upon the existing model in which school districts only receive half-day funding and supplement through the Early Education Allotment (created by HB 3 from 2019), while maintaining the Allotment to strengthen other early literacy strategies in pre-k through 3rd grade.
  • Enact recommendations of the state’s Bilingual Strategic Plan (created by SB 560 from 2021) to better serve emergent bilingual students and address the longstanding shortage of bilingual certified educators. 
  • Ensure children with disabilities have access to inclusive early education environments, including in pre-k.