Update on Kids and the Texas Legislature

Although the next legislative session starts in January, it's been a busy month as state agencies, legislators, and children's advocates gear up for the 140-day sprint in 2017.

For example, a recent Senate hearing on pre-k turned contentious at times, with our recent policy brief on the effectiveness of pre-k taking center stage for a few minutes as Senators debated the value of early education. (For those Senators concerned about pre-k's effectiveness, we would urge them to read the new TEA-commissioned report recommending a limit on pre-k class size and student-teacher ratios to ensure pre-k gets the job done.) 

Along with testifying at several hearings at the Capitol, we also hit the road for a House juvenile justice hearing in Dallas. We made the case that state leaders' new focus on supporting kids involved with CPS must be coordinated with our juvenile justice policies. We explained to lawmakers that childhood trauma often pushes youth into both systems. As you may have seen in the Texas Tribune story on the hearing, we also joined the Dallas County Juvenile Probation Chief in calling for a change to state policies that allow children as young as 10 years old to be locked up in juvenile justice facilities.

Amid a full schedule of hearings, state agencies have also released their budget requests for the next legislative session. The DFPS budget request, for example, includes a sizable bump for CPS as Governor Abbott, Speaker Straus, and other state leaders continue to vow to make it a 2017 priority. Reacting to the request at a recent hearing, the Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee expressed concerns about the agency's ability to fully support eight new Foster Care Redesign contracts around the state.   

This month DFPS also released its proposed rewrite of state child care standards. We're urging the agency to reconsider its plan to maintain outdated child-caregiver ratio standards that undermine child safety and early learning.

As we work with legislative committees and state agencies on these issues, we're refining our policy plans for the legislative session. We were pleased to see that the federal government's top pre-k official gave a Twitter shout out to our new proposals for incentivizing child care providers to partner with parents to improve kids' nutrition.

More updates are available in the Roundup section of our recent e-newsletter.

But if you really want to get up to speed and join the conversation about the next legislative session, we encourage you to come to one of our upcoming events.