85th Legislative Session Recap

Welcome

Thank you for supporting our education advocacy efforts throughout the 85th Legislative Session. Our nine-item legislative agenda was determined and set by the Early Matters Dallas Policy Committee, a group of over 40 individuals from 23 organizations with varying areas of expertise in early childhood education and wellness, through regular meetings and the formation of targeted working groups to identify areas of need and surrounding policies.

Despite a fiscally tight and politically combative session, several our top priorities successfully moved through both chambers of the legislature and received Governor Abbott’s signature to become law. Without your enduring support, none of this would have been possible.

On this page, you will find summaries of Early Matters Dallas’ legislative priorities and details on how they fared during the session.

Thank You, Legislators

 Our great success this legislative session hinged on the support of many dedicated lawmakers in the Texas State House and Senate.

Representative Rafael Anchia

Representative Rafael Anchia

Rep. Anchia co-authored HB 2039 in order to develop an Early Childhood to 3rd grade teaching certification and HB 674 to reduce suspensions for early childhood students.

Representative Helen Giddings

Rep. Giddings co-sponsored and amended SB 2118 in the House to include a 4-year degree for Early Childhood Education, and co-authored HB 674 to reduce suspensions for early childhood students.

Representative Dan Huberty

Representative Dan Huberty authored HB 357 and HB 2039 to extend Pre-K eligibility to the children of fallen first responders, and develop an EC-3rd grade teaching certification.

Senator Bryan Hughes

Senator Bryan Hughes authored SB 1839 to improve teacher quality and develop an Early Childhood to 3rd grade teaching certification.

Representative Eric Johnson

Representative Eric Johnson authored HB 674 to prohibit out-of-school suspensions for Pre-K to 2nd graders, and co-authored HB 2039 to develop an EC-3rd grade teaching certification.

Representative Linda Koop

Representative Linda Koop, co-authored HB 2039 and sponsored SB 1839 in the House to develop an Early Childhood to 3rd grade teaching certification.

Senator Royce West

Sen. West amended SB 2118 in order to include a 4-year degree for Early Childhood Education and co-sponsored HB 674 to reduce suspensions for early childhood students.

Senator Judith Zaffirini

Senator Judith Zaffirini sponsored HB 2039 in the Senate in order to develop an Early Childhood to 3rd grade teaching certification.

Early Matters Dallas Priorities

EARLY CHILDHOOD TO 3RD GRADE TEACHING CERTIFICATION
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At the beginning of the session, Texas was the only state in the country that did not offer a Early Childhood teaching credential. Now, through the passing of two separate bills – SB 1839 by Sen. Hughes and HB 2039 by Rep. Huberty – Texas will establish a Pre-K – 3rd grade teaching certificate that will serve as an optional pathway for teachers who wish to specialize in the earliest grades.  

Efforts will now be led by the Texas Education Agency and State Board of Educator Certification to develop standards and assessments for the certification to ensure educators are qualified to teach our youngest learners. Early Matters Dallas network members have been selected to serve on an advisory committee to shape the future certification standards.

DALLAS COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE EARLY CHILDHOOD INSTITUTE
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Authorizing the Dallas County Community College District to offer a 4-year Early Childhood Education degree was a focus of Commit! during the 84th Legislative Session, but proposed legislation to permit such a program at DCCCD stalled in the legislature after it failed to move in the Senate. This session, we revived this important issue as one of our top legislative priorities.

SB 2118 by Sen. Seliger authorizes community colleges to offer 4-year degree programs in areas of high workforce need, such as nursing and applied sciences. Expert political maneuvering by Sen. West and House sponsor Rep. Giddings served to include an amendment on the bill to allow those community colleges to offer a degree in Early Childhood Education as well. SB 2118 has become law, paving the way forward for an Early Childhood Institute at DCCCD.

HIGH-QUALITY PRE-K GRANT PROGRAM
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The biggest disappointment came from the de-funding of the High Quality Pre-K Grant Program, an issue declared an emergency item by Governor Abbott in 2015. The grant program, then known as HB4, was passed with bipartisan support. However, due to a tight budget and political back and forth between state leaders, maintaining the program at $236 million for the next biennium proved to be impossible.

The official budget for the 2018-19 biennium provides no extra funding for High Quality Pre-K, and strips school districts of $30 million in supplemental Pre-K funding. Yet, the budget mandates that 15% of funding currently allocated for half-day Pre-K must adhere to high-quality Pre-K requirements, essentially requiring districts to implement quality standards with substantially less funding.

Other Education Priorities

 TEACHER QUALITY
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SB 1839 by Sen. Hughes increases data accessibility for educator preparation programs and reduces out-of-state teacher reciprocity requirements.

 EXPAND ACCESS TO PRE-K
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Authored by Rep. Huberty, HB 357 will extend Pre-K eligibility to the children of fallen or severely injured first responders.

HOME VISITING
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Home Visiting programs received modest funding increases in the budget. The Nurse-Family Partnership Program – $7 million, Helping through Intervention and Prevention (HIP) – $1.3 million and the Texas Home Visiting Program (THVP) – $800,000.

SUSPENSION POLICY
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HB 674  authored by Representatives Johnson and Giddings, and sponsored by Senator West, will curb out-of-school suspensions for students in Pre-K to 2nd grade classrooms, and encourage districts to implement positive behavior programs.

 DFPS RATIO DATA
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DID NOT PASS
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HB 3788 by Rep. Koop would have required a study about the effects of student-teacher ratios on the rate of injuries in childcare classrooms to inform future policy decisions.

TEA/TWC TRANSPARENCY
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DID NOT PASS
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SB 940 and HB 3323 would have increased data transparency and interagency coordination between the Texas Education Agency and Texas Workforce Commission to better track the allocation of child care subsidy dollars.