*Originally Posted 03/28/2016


CHILDREN AT RISK is known for its advocacy work, especially during the Legislative Session when staff spends a solid 5 months traveling back and forth to Austin to talk to legislators, testify at hearings, and build consensus around policy priorities. But what happens during the Interim when the Legislature is not in session? C@R continues to advocate, but it looks a little different.

Recently, staff has spent a lot of time meeting with thought partners, advocates, and organizations around our four issue areas to prepare for the next Legislative Session, which begins January 2017. We collaborate with these groups on policy priorities and community needs.

We are also heavily involved with local initiatives. For example, we are we are in our third year of partnership with the American Heart Association to continue our work to improve fresh food access. In Dallas, C@R is collaborating with the Health and Wellness Alliance and the Food Trust for the adoption of a Healthy Corner Store Program by the City.

Recently, we wrapped up a 9-city tour across the state to meet with early education stakeholders, such as child care providers, school districts, parents, and public officials. This work will inform our research on that status of early education in Texas, as well as policy recommendations for the next Legislative Session.

An important part of our job as advocates is to provide context to our issue areas. Early education, for example, is largely a workforce issue. “The investment in quality early childhood education is the most cost effective and efficient means to improving education outcomes and, therefore, our workforce,” said Regen Fearon from Early Matters Dallas during our first stop of this 9-city tour.

We heard the same argument all over the state for the need to prioritize the investment in our future workforce. We also heard early education identified as a support for our current workforce. “The greatest challenge, honestly, that we face right now is that working parents are not willing to bring their children to [Pre-K] because they need someone that will take care of the child from 7 in the morning to 6 at night,” said Ivonne Durant, deputy superintendent of academics at El Paso ISD, during our fifth stop of the statewide tour.

In October we will publish our early education report, The Early Investment Project, which will include policy recommendations and a blueprint for moving forward. Stay tuned!