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Philanthropy Advocates: Restart and Reimagine Public Education

2021 Policy Recommendations

December 18, 2020
Philanthropy Advocates empowers Texas’ philanthropic community to invest and engage in public and higher education policy and advocacy. We work to protect, promote, and improve public and higher education so that all Texas students can achieve their educational goals from cradle to career.
 
Back in 2018, Philanthropy Advocates constructed, convened and mobilized a “big tent” of advocates and allies in support of school finance reform leading up to and during the 86th Texas Legislature. The effort united philanthropy, the business community, public education advocates and other partners, driving home the message, grounded in data and research, that money matters in public education.
 
The landmark reforms (House Bill 3) that passed the Texas Legislature in 2019 demonstrated the power of Philanthropy Advocates’ members and the larger advocacy community to generate broad-based, bipartisan support for consequential, critical, historic reforms of our state’s public education system.
 
Now, as the Texas Legislature returns to Austin this month, it’s not an understatement to call the 87th Regular Session, the COVID Session. The ongoing global pandemic will drive the budget and policies debates across all aspects of state government next year.
 
There are very clear and immediate funding and policy needs facing our state’s public schools in light of COVID-19. The pandemic is also shining a brighter light and attention on the persistent inequity that plagues our K-12 and higher education systems, as well as our health care system and larger economy.
 
That’s why, ensuring the integrity and continuity of landmark reforms and public education funding realized in House Bill 3 (2019) is even more critical today. We must also prioritize our state’s investment in high-quality, high-speed broadband connectivity across the state, an issue with greater urgency in light of the ongoing pandemic.
 
Our data, research and advocacy efforts are driven by three core policy work groups, each focused on essential elements of our state’s public education system. These priorities are even more important in light of the challenges COVID-19 has placed on our education system, our students and our teachers.
 
Early Grade Success 
Texas philanthropy knows the value of high-quality early childhood education as evidenced by decades of philanthropic investment in ages zero to eight. Overwhelming research indicates full-day, high-quality pre-K paves the way for student success by improving school readiness and early grade achievement. A focus on early grade success is even more critical in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts are predicting a significant “academic slide,” in particular for young English Learner (EL) and low-income students. English Learners have always made up a significant portion of the Texas public school population. Texas schools educate the greatest proportion of English Learners in the U.S., including 28 percent of the state’s pre-k through 3rd grade enrollment.
 
Effective Teaching 
Texas must recruit and train diverse and high-achieving teacher candidates into quality educator preparation programs to meet the growing needs of our student population. Teachers are uniquely qualified to understand and re-envision how schools can best serve children. Through research on teacher preparation and with an additional focus on the impacts of COVID-19, our effective teaching legislative agenda focuses on professional needs generally with an emphasis on the short-term and long-term impact of COVID-19 on effective teaching.
 
Pathways to College and Career
In Texas, just over 20 percent of 8th graders go on to complete a post-secondary credential within six years of high school graduation, leaving the Texas workforce in demand for high-skilled labor. Creating opportunities for multiple pathways to marketable skills, degrees and industry-recognized credentials supports students, while bolstering our state’s economy, competitiveness and workforce needs. We should continue to examine and address obstacles for students transferring from community college to a four-year institution, as well as examine the impact of COVID-19 on this student population. 
 
We must confront the immediate challenges facing our state’s public education and higher education systems in the age of COVID-19 and recommit to our state’s public education system for the long haul. The same broad-based, bipartisan spirit that led to school finance and education reforms just two years ago should be embraced during this most challenging legislative session.
 
It’s time to restart and reimagine education, and Texas philanthropy is ready to stand with state leaders to help make it happen.

Read our 2021 Philanthropy Advocates Policy Recommendations.

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