Since the beginning of the legislative session in January, we’ve blogged about six bills we like; bills that support children in our CPS system; major pre-K bills of the session; bills and other measures to support children’s mental well-being; and bills that support infant and maternal health by making it easier for moms to breastfeed.
With the bill-filing deadline behind us, we now bring you 13 more bills that would improve the lives of Texas children.
1. SB 1269 by Sen. Royce West and HB 3322 by Rep. Carol Alvarado would improve child-caregiver ratios in licensed child care centers. As state leaders focus on early education, improving child care quality must be an integral part of the strategy. Texas currently allows a single teacher to monitor as many as 11 two-year-olds at a time, to give just one example. That’s dangerous for young children, and means they aren’t getting the attention they need during this critical period of brain development. The bill directs DFPS along with a stakeholder committee to study the issue and develop a plan to reduce the ratios and group sizes over time. Our policy brief on the issue has more information.
2. HB 1541 by Rep. Cindy Burkett would help families raising children with mental illness by funding peer support services through Medicaid. The bill includes services provided by Certified Family Partners, who combine their own lived experience raising a child with mental illness with specialized training. They are uniquely qualified to help families navigate services and advocate on behalf of their children, serving as an integral part of the child’s treatment team. Learn more in our policy brief.
3. SB 104 by Sen. Juan "Chuy” Hinojosa would include 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system. Several similar bills have been filed in the House. Currently in Texas, ALL 17-year-old law-breakers go to the adult criminal justice system, even though the vast majority of their offenses are nonviolent misdemeanors. The legislation would make the juvenile system the default for 17-year-olds while maintaining the option to certify them as adults. Sheriffs, judges, and others are backing the proposal to hold these teens accountable in the juvenile system as a way to save money, prevent assaults on jailed 17-year-olds, and reduce repeat crimes when the teens are released.
4. HB 2626 by Rep. Toni Rose and SB 1401 by Sen. Jose Rodriguez would also address the age range for our juvenile justice system, directing a taskforce to identify services that could be an alternative to the juvenile system for the youngest children who get in trouble. Currently children as young as 10 years old can enter the justice system and can even be incarcerated in the state’s juvenile justice facilities.
5. HB 2086 by Rep. Alma Allen would require additional PE in middle school. It increases the number of semesters that middle school students are required to participate in 30 minutes of daily physical activity from four to all six semesters. The bill also directs the Texas Education Agency to develop and institute policies for recess that encourage constructive, age-appropriate outdoor play time. It also reinstates a half credit of Health Education as a requirement for high school graduation and returns the Physical Education graduation requirement from the current 1 credit back to 1.5 credits.
6. SB 518 by Sen. Carlos Uresti and HB 3289 by Rep. Marsha Farney would help schools foster safe and supportive learning climates by strengthening mental health components within state and local coordinated school health efforts. Both mental health and school climate are linked to academic performance. When students are physically, socially, and emotionally well and feel supported in their schools, they can focus on learning and succeeding in school.
7. SB 954 by Sen. Eddie Lucio would empower parents to reduce the marketing of junk food in their children’s schools. The bill directs school districts' School Health Advisory Councils (SHACs) to make recommendations regarding commercial advertising on school property for food products that are not allowed to be served on school campuses during the school day.
8. SB 1334 by Sen. Royce West would hold school districts accountable for disproportionately punishing students based on race, disability, or special education needs. The bill directs TEA to analyze school district data and require districts with a pattern of disproportional punishment to develop an improvement plan.
9. HB 1180 by Rep. Cindy Burkett would ensure parents have access to more information about child care facilities and family homes as they consider options for their children. The bill will require that the online public database maintained by DFPS not only includes information on which providers previously had their child care license revoked, but also how and why those providers lost their licenses.
10. HB 2048 by Rep. Elliott Naishtat and SB 1891 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini would ensure state agencies continue to work and plan together so that families of children with serious mental illness have access to coordinated, seamless "systems of care” where providers work in partnership with families and kids receive the services they need while remaining in their homes and communities. Today, many families are faced with fragmented programs that operate in silos, making it harder for children to get the help they need. Learn more in our policy brief.
11. HB 2684 by Rep. Helen Giddings would create a model training program and training requirements for school police officers. The training would give school officers the tools and resources to help keep students with mental health concerns in school and learning, instead of pushing them out of school and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
12. HB 3979 by Rep. Dawnna Dukes and SB 1696 by Sen. Royce West would ban the use of Tasers and pepper spray on students by school police. Efforts to keep students safe from these weapons has taken on greater urgency since a school resource officer in Bastrop ISD Tased a high school student, causing him to fall, hit his head, and suffer a traumatic brain injury.
13. HB 1339 by Rep. Roland Gutierrez would provide quicker access to health coverage for uninsured children from low- and moderate-income families. The bill shortens the current 90-day waiting period for CHIP coverage and is expected to completely eliminate the waiting period in a subsequent version of the legislation. Broken arms, high fevers, and other conditions requiring medical attention don’t wait 90 days before striking. Kids should be able to see a doctor when they need to without risking their family’s financial stability.