2016-2017: Education Advocacy Priorities in Texas
Last week we took a look at the education-related issues that the Texas legislature is likely to touch upon in the upcoming session, and noted that the vast majority of legislation eventually passed in session has been discussed and/ or debated in the interim. That makes advocacy extremely important, both in bringing issues to light and shaping the discussion around the issues at hand. Recently in Texas, local nonprofits have begun to partner together to advocate more effectively.
Some of the major players in the DFW area are the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, which provides funding to numerous organizations across the city, Early Matters Dallas, a coalition focused on early childhood education that partners with its sister organization in Houston, the Dallas Regional Chamber, which represents local businesses in advocating for, in particular, talent attraction, and many other local nonprofits which have their own advocacy priorities. All nonprofits and education-focused organizations can benefit, or suffer, from legislation passed by the state, and many either advocate individually or partner with other organizations in order to share their opinions with legislators.
Notable advocacy priorities for the upcoming legislative session in Texas include:
*Pre-k funding and quality
Early Matters Dallas and Early Matters Houston partner together to advocate in Austin; together, they represent 1/4 of the students in Texas. Maintaining the current level of pre-K funding, and ideally increasing it, is a huge priority for many education advocates across the state. In the last session, pre-K funding was a one-time fund, rather than built into the budget, so advocates expect to have to fight to maintain that level of funding this session. Quality of pre-K is also a priority– 80 percent of eligible four year olds attend pre-K, but only 55 percent are kindergarten ready.
*Increasing college readiness
College readiness is often measured by the ACT/ SAT scores needed to get into college. Education advocates are concerned that too many students are getting to college without the skills they need to be successful in their classes and eventually graduate. Increasing college readiness (by improving high school education, providing SAT prep and wraparound services at the college level) is a huge topic of discussion at the moment.
*Child health and wellness
Increasing funding for children’s and family services is another area that advocates are focused on. The Texas Home Visiting Program, for example, provides important coaching services to families in their own homes, and could expand to serve more families with increased funding.
By joining together, many of these organizations are able to make their voices heard by those who have the power to influence these important issues, often through the state budget approval process. In the next legislative session, each organization will be watching to see how their efforts to improve education in Texas will be impacted. The biggest issue on the table is pre-K, but many other issues beyond those mentioned here will impact local nonprofits— and more importantly, local students.