Seven Takeaways from the Latest TX Early Education Alliance Meeting

We had a terrific discussion at our Texas Early Education Alliance meeting in Austin yesterday with leaders and experts from education associations, pre-k, child care, and Head Start in attendance from across the state. We were grateful that Howard Morrison from TEA, Jeannie Young from DFPS, and Phil Warner from TWC found time in their busy schedules to share timely updates on executive agency activity related to Texas early education policies.

Here are seven takeaways from the meeting:

1. The biggest takeaway for me from the meeting is the tremendous opportunity that exists over the next few months for early education stakeholders, parents, researchers, business leaders, and other concerned citizens to provide input and recommendations to our state’s executive leadership on how pre-k and child care programs can be improved in Texas. Texans Care for Children will be weighing in and we look forward to collaborating with you during this critical window of opportunity.

2. TEA will continue to post updates on the HB 4 Pre-K Grant Program draft rules and public comment opportunities on its HB 4-specific webpage. [UPDATE: Here's the presentation that TEA's Howard Morrison made at our meeting.]

3. HB 4 grant applications and eligibility criteria will be posted in early 2016. Funding will be made available in summer 2016 for use by school districts implementing high-quality prekindergarten programs in the 2016-2017 school year. 

4. Recently, Texas received a $6.9 million federal Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems grant to build out a Texas early education data system as required by HB 4. Note that HB 4 mandates that all school districts, not just those receiving state pre-k grants, must comply with new early education data requirements set out through the HB 4 rulemaking process.

5. As you may remember, HB 4 did not establish maximum pre-k class sizes or ratios. However, we were successful in convincing legislators to include a ratio recommendation in the bill. As a result, the rules will recommend a teacher-student ratio of 1:11 but it will not be a requirement for pre-k grant funding. Programs already meeting that ratio will not receive extra weight in their application. The good news is that, over time, the new early education data system should provide a clearer picture of the teacher-child ratios and class sizes that are in place in pre-k classrooms around the state.

6. The DFPS Child Care Licensing Standards Review is underway, with stakeholder engagement meetings taking place around the state. Information about future meetings can be found here on the DFPS website. This process will address issues that are central to giving young Texans a strong foundation for the rest of their lives, including minimum standards for child care teacher-child ratios and nutrition requirements. Currently, DFPS rules allow child care providers to assign as many as 15 three-year-olds to a single teacher, for example.

7. Finally, we heard from the Texas Workforce Commission that implementation of the revised Texas Rising Star standards has been extended until February 29, 2016, and there are new modifications to the scoring, assessment and certification within TRS. You can learn more about these modifications here. TWC will hold three more meetings around the state to obtain public and stakeholder input on the administration of the state’s child care system. The schedule of these meetings is here.  

We will keep you posted on additional HB 4, child care licensing, and Texas Rising Star standards updates as they become available and, as always, we look forward to collaborating with you to advance high quality early education in Texas.