Early Education in the 86th Texas Legislature

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August 12, 2019 Policy

Early Education in the 86th Texas Legislature

In the 2018 midterm elections, Texas voters made their priorities clear: they wanted their lawmakers to focus on public education. And the state’s leadership responded in kind, with Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and newly-elected Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen signalling that school finance reform would be among their top priorities.

Over the course of the 86th Texas Legislature, legislators made good on this promise, delivering a $11.5 billion legislative package of additional education funding and property tax relief. The legislation, known as HB3, was of huge importance to Early Matters Dallas and its partners because of its expansion of Pre-K to full-day service for all eligible students. But it was far from the only example of early education policy taken up. Here are few other successful public education bills that will be of particular interest to fellow early education advocates.

House Bill 18 by Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo) was an omnibus mental health bill containing numerous positive developments for our students. But perhaps most exciting was the requirement for teachers to receive research-based training in trauma-informed practices as part of new employee orientation and continuing professional education. These measures have been shown to improve behavioral and academic outcomes for students experiencing persistent trauma and toxic stress.

Inspired by a harrowing expose of child care providers in the state, Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) filed Senate Bill 708. The bill increases state oversight and accountability of child care facilities by requiring ratio and group size data to be collected during regular child care licensing visits. This data will then be analyzed to determine whether high child-teacher ratios and large group sizes are correlated with rates of child injury to inform future policy decisions.

And Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) can be thanked for clearing up some administrative red tape that threatened Pre-K access. Under previous law, the families of 3 year olds enrolled in public Pre-K had to re-apply for access the following year. Thanks to the passage of Senate Bill 1679, these students will now be automatically eligible for re-enrollment.

There remains a great deal of work to be done in order to ensure every Texan child has access to quality early education. But thanks to the hard work of these legislators and their colleagues, we’re closer to that goal than ever before.

If you’d like to learn more about this year’s legislative session, or begin preparing for the next one, please visit our Advocacy page to sign up for action alerts.