Legislation Aims to Improve Child Care for At-Risk Texans


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Legislation Aims to Improve Child Care for At-Risk Texans - Wednesday, January 09, 2013

For Immediate Release
January 9, 2012

CONTACT: Christine Sinatra (512) 473-2274

Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin) Files Legislation to Improve Child Care for At-Risk Texans

Legislation would lead to more young Texans entering the K-12 system prepared for success in school resulting in savings to school districts and the state of Texas

AUSTIN -- Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin) kicked off the 83rd Legislative Session by filing House Bill 376, a bill that would improve Texas' child care subsidy system for low-income, at-risk Texans. Currently, just 16% of child care programs statewide are designated as high quality. Quality matters because the research shows that it is the high quality programs that lead to a greater number of children entering kindergarten prepared for school, and provide a solid return on investment for local communities.

According to the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, high quality early education provides a minimum of a 350% return on investment with savings realized through more children entering kindergarten on level with their peers, fewer children needing access to special education services or being retained in school, and more children graduating high school and entering college.

"Low-income children arrive at the doorsteps of Texas schools knowing approximately 20,000 fewer vocabulary words than their middle and upper income peers, resulting in an achievement gap from day one," said Representative Mark Strama. "I wanted to write a bill that would address this problem by increasing the number of high quality child care centers that low-income children have access to resulting in a greater number prepared for school upon entry into kindergarten," he added.

Currently, Texas does not have a uniform approach to assigning quality designations to child care programs. Texas Rising Star, the most widely accessible statewide certification process for improving the quality of child care services, has not received statewide funding for nearly 10 years. House Bill 376 would reinstate funding for the Texas Rising Star program, leading to additional high quality child care programs proven to prepare children for success in the K-12 system.

"Since Texas shifted its investment strategy towards high quality programming a decade ago, Texas has experienced $5.5 million of net savings in general revenue over a four-year period alone by reducing the number of kindergarten and first graders retained in school," said Kara Johnson, Early Opportunities Associate for Texans Care for Children. "We know high quality programs work and House Bill 376 would increase the number of high quality child care centers preparing our most at-risk children to be successful in school."

In addition to preparing children for success in the K-12 system, House Bill 376 would 1) create incentives for child care programs to achieve higher levels of quality, 2) enable the state to benchmark quality in child care programs which is an industry that offers a great range of quality between programs; and 3) educate parents on how to distinguish between 2-star, 3-star, and 4-star quality designations.

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Texans Care for Children, a nonpartisan organization works to improve the health, safety and wellbeing of millions of Texas children and to raise awareness about their needs.


 

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