2017 Legislative Priorities

High-Quality Pre-K

Last session, House Bill 4 established a $118 million grant for school districts that agreed to implement quality components into their Pre-K program. The bill required participating schools to report important information to TEA about enrollment and outcomes to inform best practice. HB4 authorized districts and charters to receive up to $1,500 per student, but the high demand for these programs reduced the allotment to $734 per student.

This session, Early Matters Dallas is advocating for sustained funding for high-quality pre-kindergarten through the budget. To sustain funding at the $118 million that was disbursed for school year 2016-17, requires $236 million to be appropriated for the forthcoming 2017-19 biennium. Ideally, funding should be increased to account for the high demand from school districts and charters so they can cover the compliance requirements of the grant and truly invest in building a high-quality program.

In order for districts and charters to make long-term investments in structural improvements, the funding stream must be reliable. High-quality Pre-K funding should be rolled into permanent funding to allow districts to make recurring investments in sustainable quality components rather than one-time investments.

We encourage you to reach out to your legislators and leaders about investing in high-quality pre-kindergarten and have provided you with handouts and talking points to assist you in those efforts.

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DCCCD 4-Year Early Childhood Degree

The Dallas County Community College District has committed to meeting the workforce need for high-quality, early childhood focused teachers. If Dallas County alone were to enroll all eligible but currently unenrolled students in Pre-K, there would be need for an additional 4,300 teachers. As such, DCCCD stands ready to craft a BA program to meet the expressed needs of the local hiring ISDs and is willing to develop this program in partnership with one or more regional universities who could serve as the degree-conferring institution.

DCCCD will partner with ISDs and best practice organizations to create career pathways for graduates and a transparent feedback loop to analyze the effectiveness of programs.

We are proudly supporting two pieces of legislation this session regarding this priority: SB 534 and HB 971

We encourage you to reach out to your legislators and leaders about authorizing the DCCCD to offer an Early Childhood degree program and have provided you with handouts and talking points to assist you in those efforts.

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P-3 Certification

Texas is one of only two states in the country that lacks a specific Early Childhood teaching credential. The current EC-6 certificate spans 8 grade levels and does not allow educators the deep-dive preparation required to effectively teach early childhood grades. Math and English standards for Pre-K – 3rd grade represent less than half of the content tested for the current Pre-K – 6th grade certificate.

A P-3 teaching certification will ensure that our teachers are properly prepared to teach our youngest students, as well as help ensure quality Pre-K and Early Childhood classrooms. The certification will exist as an optional pathway for teachers who want to specialize in Early Childhood alongside the EC-6 certification. It would also continue to provide flexibility for superintendents to move teachers as needed.

Read more about HB 2039, legislation that would mandate development of the P-3 certification here.

We encourage you to reach out to your legislators and leaders about developing a Pre-K through 3rd Grade teaching certificate and have provided you with handouts and talking points to assist you in those efforts.

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Early Education Transparency

Currently, there is not enough information about how subsidized funds for childcare are being spent, and whether it is going towards high quality programs. Further, school districts have difficulty finding and partnering with quality child care providers to coordinate transition into the public school system and other logistical issues, such as facilities or teacher training.

SB 940 and HB 3323 aims to better identify how well state dollars are being invested and create opportunities for efficiency and resource sharing by providing clearer information about the quality of subsidized child care paid with state and federal funds. The bill also allows for better coordination of the subsidized child care program at the Texas Workforce Commission and public school pre-kindergarten.

The legislation will require Texas Workforce Commission to make public information that they already collect but do not report into their bi-annual report Evaluation of the Effectiveness of the Subsidized Child Care Program. Read more here.

For questions or more information, please contact: Mandi Sheridan Kimball, Children at Risk Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs.

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DFPS Ratio Data Collection

Despite research promoting the benefits of low student/teacher ratios in early childcare settings, Texas ranks among the worst in the nation for group size of students among many age groups. For 2 year olds and 4 year olds, Texas ties for second highest, and ties for absolute highest for 18-23 month olds and 3 year olds.

Students in classrooms with lower student/teacher ratios are, research suggests, substantially safer. Childcare classrooms must meet minimum standards to ensure their purpose of protecting the health and well-being of the children in their care is fulfilled. Several pieces of legislation (SB2164, HB3788 and HB3205) this session will provide the data on childcare centers and ratios across the state. Data collected and analyzed will be used to mitigate risk to young children in childcare programs statewide.

We encourage you to reach out to your legislators and leaders about DFPS Ratio Data Collection and have provided you with handouts and talking points to assist you in those efforts.

For questions or more information, please email: Melanie Rubin, Director of the Dallas Early Education Alliance.

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Early Childhood Intervention

The Texas Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program provides home-based comprehensive therapies and supports to more than 50,000 babies and toddlers with disabilities and developmental delays. For many children, ECI is critical for school readiness and helping children reach their developmental goals.

However, since 2011, Texas has decreased ECI funding, reduced program eligibility, and added administrative burdens on community organizations providing ECI services, leading to a 14% statewide decline in ECI enrollment. In some parts of the state, ECI enrollment dropped more than 30 percent. During that same period, the population of children under three grew by more than three percent. As state funding fell, the number of ECI community centers also dropped, falling from 58 in 2010 to 47 today. Texas now ranks 45th nationwide for the percentage of children 0 – 3 served in ECI.

Two pieces of House legislation are key to Early Childhood Intervention: HB 3930 by Representative Miller, and HB 3967 by Representative Walle.



Home Visiting

Home Visiting programs are family support, parent education and coaching programs delivered within the home primarily to families with children 0-5.

The Texas Home Visiting Program funds evidenced-based programs, such as HIPPY, NFP, and PAT, that reach 6,000 children and families with children ages 0-5 across Texas annually. The ROI of evidence-based home visiting programs is $5.70 for every $1 invested.

The HOPES program was established in 2013 and is managed by the Department of Family and Protective Services’ (DFPS) Prevention and Early Intervention Division. HOPES is designed to prevent child abuse and neglect by building family protective factors and reducing family and community child maltreatment risk factors. The program targets families with children ages 0-5 and provides families with a comprehensive network of services. HOPES grantees offer an array of home visiting services to families. Currently, 24 counties are HOPES grantees, including Dallas and Harris Counties.

For questions or more information, please contact: Sophie Phillips, Chief Operating Officer of TexProtects.

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Parent Engagement Taskforce

Investment in Early Childhood Education and Intervention is not limited to just students: strengthening parents leads to strong families with improved student outcomes and trajectories. Strong parent and family engagement is an important component of high quality early learning environments.

Currently, many state agencies use taxpayer money to educate and engage parents, yet there lacks significant coordination between these agencies, causing gaps in the services offered. Coordination of efforts and improved communication between these agencies will increase efficiency, save taxpayer dollars, and improve outcomes for both students and families.

Creating an interagency task force focused on parent education and family engagement is a crucial step forward towards ensuring coordination and efficiency. Such a task force will be charged with defining outcomes for the state agencies and the families they support. The efforts of the task force will improve the services offered by state agencies, and spend taxpayer money more efficiently.

Two pieces of legislation mandate the creation of the taskforce: SB 1669 authored by Senator Lucio, and HB 1522 authored by Representative White and Allen.

For questions or more information, please contact: Mandi Sheridan Kimball, Children at Risk Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs.

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Pre-K Eligibility for Fallen First Responders

Many vulnerable student populations are currently eligible for free full-day Pre-K from their local ISD. These populations include students who are economically-disadvantaged, English Language Learning, and homeless, among other eligibility categories. A high quality Pre-K program can boost school readiness for these at-risk students tremendously.

It is understandably tragic when a student loses one of his or her parents as a result of their role as a first responder. The period after such a loss is trying for both the student and the remaining parent, and strong social support structures during this time are invaluable. A high quality Pre-K program could be of great benefit for this now at-risk student.

HB 357, authored by Chairman Dan Huberty, expands Pre-K eligibility through the Star of Texas program, an award that is presented to first responders either severely injured or killed on the line of duty, including firefighters, peace officers, and EMTs. Pre-K eligibility already includes children of fallen or injured military members, and should extend to fallen or injured first responders at home, as well.

For questions or more information, please contact: Mandi Sheridan Kimball, Children at Risk Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs.

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