Child Health

Children’s Defense Fund-Texas 2021 Legislative Priorities for the 87th Legislative Session

January 13, 2021 | Texas

By CDF-Texas

The Children’s Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child has a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. Our priorities for the 87th Legislative Session seek positive policy changes that invest in and ensure the well-being of all Texas children.

As an organization our priorities are rooted in our commitment to racial and economic justice. The Children’s Defense Fund grew out of the Civil Rights Movement under the leadership of Marian Wright Edelman and we honor that legacy in all that we do. A successful future for all Texas children cannot be realized without meaningful action to address the unjust economic and political systems that harm children of color and their communities. When looking at health policy, for example, we understand that poor children and children of color have less access to healthcare and worse outcomes than their higher-income and white counterparts. As we have seen tragically revealed, children and families of color have faced disproportionate consequences from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Our priorities aim to highlight these disparities and create more equitable pathways to success for all Texas children.

As leading or participating members, we echo the priorities of the following coalitions: Cover Texas Now, Children’s Healthcare Coverage Coalition, Texas PN3 Coalition, Child Protection Roundtable, Texas Gun Sense, the Texas Election Reform Coalition, and the Texas Civic Education Coalition. In particular, areas of focus for the Children’s Defense Fund-Texas are:

Healthy Texas Children & Families

  • Texas has the worst uninsured rate of any state in the nation. We cannot give Texas children and families a healthy start in life without addressing the 5 million Texans who go without health coverage. Texas must expand Medicaid this session or find a Texas-specific alternative that pulls down billions of dollars in federal funding.
  • New mothers need more Medicaid coverage than they get now; no new mom should go without healthcare in the year after childbirth. Texas should extend coverage from 60 days after childbirth to 12 months.
  • No child should be inadvertently kicked off their insurance because of inaccurate eligibility checks. Texas children need 12 months of continuous coverage.

Voting Rights & Youth Civic Education

  • One in four eligible Texans remains unregistered to vote, with hundreds of thousands more young Texans turning 18 each year. The state must enact online voter registration and automatic registration during interactions with state agencies. We also need to strengthen our existing high school voter registration law to ensure all eligible young Texans have the opportunity to register for the first time in their schools.
  • All Texans benefit from having more options to exercise their right to vote. Our state must enact no-excuse vote by mail and other systems that make voting more accessible.
  • It is time to reimagine what civic education should look like in Texas schools. As it stands, the quality and quantity of civic education varies greatly across school districts and even within schools themselves. We need comprehensive standards that are also sensitive to the perspectives of marginalized communities.

Protecting Immigrant Children & Families

  • Safety for immigrant children and their families means the state must work to close down immigrant detention centers.
  • Texas must prohibit the Texas Department of Criminal Justice from entering or renewing contracts with private corporations to run prisons.
  • The state can establish conditional driver’s permits for undocumented immigrants who are Texas residents, have taken an approved driver’s education course in Texas, and do not have any disqualifying convictions.