86th Texas Legislative Session
How did Children Fare this Legislative Session?
To ensure Texas children had a voice, CHILDREN AT RISK testified in legislative hearings or registered support for bills 83 times over the course of the session and spent countless hours working with legislative offices. We witnessed major wins and, of course, missed opportunities. Below are just a few of the great victories for children and families this year!
PRIORITY: INVEST IN QUALITY PUBLIC EDUCATION TO ENSURE ALL CHILDREN ARE READY FOR COLLEGE
CHILDREN AT RISK knows that quality early education is vitally important to ensuring the success of our students. We are thrilled to see the Texas Legislature prioritized early education by passing House Bill 3 and House Bill 680.
We moved the needle on quality early education through HB 680 by Rep. Deshotel/Lopez (Sen. Watson/West) which improves coordination, transparency, and efficiency within and among Texas’ early childhood education programs, as well as prioritizes professional development aimed at improving the quality of the workforce in our early education centers. School funding was controversial as always, and there were plenty of ups and downs along the way, but the Legislature is definitely beginning to grasp the importance of early education and the proof is in HB 3 by Rep. Huberty (Sen. Taylor)’s provision for an additional $6 billion to Texas public education system and the allotment for full-day Pre-K! HB 3 also provides funding to implement an extended school year for at-risk students if a district so chooses.
PRIORITY: INVEST IN PROGRAMS & STRATEGIES THAT IMPROVE CHILDREN’S PHYSICAL, MENTAL, & SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
One important step towards improving the mental health of our children is dedicating more state resources toward mental health services. With the passage of SB 11 by Sen. Taylor (Rep. Bonnen) , SB 670 by Sen. Buckingham (Rep. Price), and HB 18 by Rep. Price (Sen. Watson), among others teachers and school administrators will be better equipped to identify and address the mental health needs on campus and prevent school violence. These bills increase access to school-based telemedicine services and provide additional trauma-trainings for teachers in order to improve both the identification of students’ mental health needs and teachers’ ability to connect students to services.
To address our children’s physical development, CHILDREN AT RISK was pleased to see the Texas Legislature pass HB 455 by Rep. Allen (Sen. Watson), which required all school districts to adopt and implement a local school recess policy. Unfortunately, the bill was vetoed by Gov. Abbott. HB 455 was not a mandate but would have improved transparency at the school district level, and provided parents and families with a policy for guidance on their child’s access to this important break during the day.
PRIORITY: PREVENT HUMAN TRAFFICKING & PROTECT SURVIVORS
CHILDREN AT RISK wanted legislators to enhance penalties for buyers and provide services to arrested victims/prostituted individuals. With the passage of SB 20 by Sen. Huffman (Rep. Thompson), legislators did just that, and with the additional passage of SB 1801 by Sen. Huffman (Rep. Hunter), that allows victims of trafficking to obtain a nondisclosure of criminal activities, victims of trafficking in Texas will have support and access to necessary services. CHILDREN AT RISK was very pleased to see Legislators recognize the need to involve educators in the fight against human trafficking, and with the passage of HB 403 by Rep. Thompson (Sen. Huffman), all school board members and superintendents will be required to attend a Human Trafficking training.
Another exciting step that Legislators took this session was to eliminate the ability for youth to be arrested or prosecuted for selling sex. With the passage of HB 1771 by Rep. Thierry (Sen. Huffman), children under the age of 17 will be taken back to family or connected to a local service provider rather than be arrested.
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Join CHILDREN AT RISK this summer as we unpack how children fared this legislative session in cities across Texas. Each of these debriefs will feature a deep dive into our final 86th Legislative Report, an opportunity to praise the wins and acknowledge the work needed to address the missed opportunities.
JULY 17th – FORT WORTH
JULY 18th – DALLAS
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