High-quality early childhood education and child care is essential for Texas’ economy to recover now and thrive in the future. In order to return to and stay at work, parents need access to affordable, quality early childhood education for their young children so they can focus on their job knowing their child is in a safe, caring environment. At the same time, young children need supportive, stimulating environments to ensure they are on track for healthy development by age three and prepared for future learning, positive behavior, and good health.
We need to take action now to increase funding for and access to early childhood education, including supporting the early childhood workforce, because our businesses and our state’s current and future economic success depends on parents being able to work.
Despite the pandemic and several distractions, several early childhood education bills were passed that will significantly impact early childhood education and further goals to Full details about the Session can be found here (https://childrenatrisk.org/87th/). Early childhood wins included:
- HB 2607 (Talarico et al./Lucio) will require subsidy providers to participate in the state’s previously voluntary quality rating and improvement system, Texas Rising Star. With an appropriate phase-in period and increased access to supports and coaching, HB 2607 will improve the quality of care available to the more than 136,000 children currently enrolled in a subsidized program.
- HB 1792 (Button et al./Zaffirini) streamlines the evaluation of child care providers participating in the Texas Rising Star system.
- HB 619 (S.Thompson et al./Alvarado) requires TWC to collect additional data and develop a strategic plan to support a sustainable child care workforce.
- SB 1555 (Zaffirini/Raney) bringsmuch-needed financial relief to providers and incentivizes high-quality care by increasing state reimbursement rates.
There were also a couple of missed opportunities to advance quality child care for all Texas children:
- HB 1964 (Lopez) would have required a statewide study to understand the true cost of quality child care. While past research has shown the benefits of quality early childhood education, the hidden costs are lesser-known. Child care providers often charge parents prices they can afford, and these market prices do not capture the true costs of operating a high-quality center. Had this bill passed, the resulting study would have illuminated the disparities faced by providers and could have influenced the implementation of reimbursement rates that more accurately cover the needs of providers.
- SB 971 (Zaffirini)/HB 1364 (Romero, Jr. et al.) would have ensured a stable supply of high-quality child care for low-income children by improving contracted slot agreements. With contracted slots, local workforce boards contract out a certain number of subsidy seats from a child care provider. Contracted slots allow providers to continue to receive reimbursement rates for that slot while they work to fill it. This bill would have given local workforce boards the flexibility to allow a child care provider to recommend a child to fill a vacated seat from their waitlist, thereby streamlining and expediting the placement process and addressing the needs in the provider’s local community.