What Made The 2013 State Legislative Session A Good One For Children?

As the Texas Legislature's 2nd special session comes to an end, the nonprofit organization Children at Risk held a debrief to highlight new laws that concern children in Texas.

Children at Risk CEO Bob Sanborn summarized the 83rd state legislative session this way: There’s some good news, but we still live in Texas, which is full of bad news for children.

But he also says this session was one of the better ones for Texas children. One reason:

“You know, I was very happy that we had $3 billion in public education money restored.”

Other favorites of Sanborn’s are the creation of a commission to look into possible benefits of a longer school year or longer school days, laws helping victims of human trafficking, and a bill providing school breakfast for low-income students.

A panel of the government relations directors for Texas Children’s Hospital, Mental Health America of Greater Houston, Children at Risk, and the Houston Independent School District all shared their views on this year’s legislative session.

Veronica Garcia represented HISD on the panel. She says the Legislature deserves credit for restoring some of the public education funds that it cut in 2011 and which are the subject of a pending lawsuit. But she says there’s a lot more work to be done.

“The district court is going to consider the new evidence with the changes that were made this past legislative session sometime at the beginning of this next year in January, and then we’ll see if the parties appeal it to the Texas Supreme Court. We still got a ways to go in terms of where we end up with school finance.”

Some other positives mentioned by the panelists were increased mental health funding and steps to tackle childhood obesity.

But then there are also what Bob Sanborn calls “missed opportunities” by the Legislature. He names the resistance to a Medicaid expansion as a big one.

“That’s probably the one thing I would point to in the legislative session that we really need to look at. I also think the idea of sort of giving more controls around charter schools is probably very, very important. We didn’t do enough of that.”

The panel also lamented that nothing was done to improve teacher quality in Texas and that the Legislature failed to work toward the elimination of food deserts, where nutritious food options are scarce.

But all in all, Sanborn says he is more optimistic after this legislative session than in past years.

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Florian Martin

Reporter/NewsLab Coordinator

Florian Martin is the KUHF NewsLab Coordinator. While guiding and overseeing interns, he works on his own stories and is always on call to cover breaking news and other media events...