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Recap: House International Relations & Economic Development

Notes on the Committee's May 19 Interim Hearing

May 20, 2022
The Texas House Committee on International Relations & Economic Development met Thursday, May 19. Chair Angie Chen Button welcomed members both virtually and in person to address the following interim charges:

Monitoring 
  • HB 619, relating to developing a strategic plan to support the childcare workforce;
  • HB 1792, relating to the evaluation of childcare providers participating in the Texas Rising Star Program;
  • HB 2607, relating to the powers and duties of the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and local workforce development boards regarding the provision of childcare and the subsidized childcare program;
  • HB 3767, relating to measures to support the alignment of education and workforce development with state workforce needs, including the establishment of the Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative; and
  • SB 1555, relating to establishing reimbursement rates for certain childcare providers participating in the subsidized childcare program.
Economic Recovery
  • Monitor the state’s economic recovery and identify obstacles impeding the state’s economic recovery
Workforce
  • Identify labor shortages and Texas’ unemployment numbers
 
Interim Charge: Economic Recovery
Monitor the state’s economic recovery and identify obstacles impeding the state’s economic recovery. Examine the economic impact of inflation on both employers and employees.
 
Rich Froeschle with Texas State Technical College began with a presentation discussing the emerging recession and the challenges facing the labor market. There is significant demand from the workforce for wage increases and a need for more skilled workers in IT and technology, and more labor in education, hospitality and nursing.
 
Interim Charge: Monitoring HB 3767
Following the discussion about the economy, Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) Commissioner Harrison Keller, and Texas Workforce Commissioner (TWC) Bryan Daniel presented jointly on HB 3767 to discuss the Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative (referred to as Tri-Agency).
  • Commissioner Morath and Commissioner Keller highlighted milestones in the collaboration, such as monthly leadership meetings and common approaches to project management and performance management occurring across the three agencies.
  • The Tri-Agency is establishing a master data sharing agreement across the three agencies and seeking to modernize their data infrastructure. Data dashboards around transfer and regional labor market needs are being developed.
  • Chairman Daniel shared that the Tri-Agency is currently working on creating a credentials library, developing career pathways informed by the workforce and building a tool to inform establishing a self-sufficient wage by county.
Key Exchanges:
  • Chair Button asked Commissioner Morath about obstacles and benefits for public/private pre-K partnerships and how the legislature can help address obstacles.
    • Answer: Commissioner Morath outlines the array of early education service providers in a child’s life (families, childcare settings, pre-K, etc.). He shares that these partnerships, when done well, increase access to and quality of early childhood education options. The logistics to these partnerships tend to be difficult when starting and there are certain policy and regulatory obstacles that can be preventative to partnerships occurring. Watch the exchange.
 
  • Chair Button asked Commissioner Keller how THECB is addressing challenges of transferring credentials from 2-year to 4-year colleges specifically in the early childhood education field of study
    • Answer: Commissioner Keller shared that THECB has been working in partnership with community and universities to address credit transfer challenges through the Texas Transfer Framework. THECB is now identifying ten fields of study to prioritize in this framework. Working groups are meeting this summer to further identify fields of study to address, which could include early childhood education. Watch the exchange.

Interim Charge: Workforce Update
Chairman Daniel also provided an update on the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), including the following comments:
  • Texas has recovered significantly since the beginning of the pandemic. The unemployment rate, as of the date of the meeting, was 4.4%.
  • TWC is still looking to address job vacancy issues that have been present since before the pandemic, which continue to include healthcare, hospitality, and educators.
  • A middle skills gap is causing some slower growth in fields. Chairman Daniel advocated for apprenticeship programs, or earn as you learn programs, which would allow for simultaneous in-person experience and classroom instruction.
  • TWC continues to work with people seeking jobs or looking for higher paying jobs, matching them with job vacancies and preparing them to go to work.

Interim Charge: Monitoring Childcare Legislation
The final panel of the hearing focused on childcare and the workforce. Kim Kofron of Children at Risk provide testimony on the state of our childcare system, including the following comments:
  • A robust childcare system is essential to the economy, noting how Texas lost roughly 21 percent of providers during the pandemic which have not been recovered.
  • Staffing shortages affect families and prevent providers from being able to serve full capacity as they do not have the workers.
  • The median annual wage of workers is $22,000, and most employees qualify for at least one form of assistance. Despite the aid of relief funds, competitive wages are not able to be met.
  • Kim Kofron discussed HB 619 and the need to make a viable and living wage for employees and partnerships with school districts.
Reagan Miller, director of the Childcare and Early Learning Division at TWC and Chair of the Texas Early Learning Council, provided updates on legislation reviewed during the hearing.
  • HB 619: TWC created a strategic plan to support the childcare workforce. This is being done with the University of Texas LBJ School and Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center. A stakeholder workgroup will continue to meet throughout the summer as they work through data for the report.
  • HB 1792: relates to the evaluation of childcare providers participating in the Texas Rising Star Program. TWC is in the process of procuring a contract with a single entity to oversee all staff that review the Texas Rising Star Program to address concerns brought up by providers who are worried about consistency.
  • HB 2607: relates to the powers and duties of TWC and local workforce development boards regarding the provision of childcare and the subsidized childcare program. Smaller changes for the bill are occurring as reporting has been simplified, and the reporting frequency has increased for 6 month to 12 month childcare providers. TWC is working with TEA on this to create more partnerships between Texas Rising Star providers and pre-k partnerships.
  • SB 1555: establishes reimbursement rates for childcare providers participating in the subsidized childcare program managed by TWC. This legislation aligns the TWC program with the Health and Human Services Commission’s ratios and group sizes. The intent here is to help address groups with the biggest lag in support, which is currently infant to toddler childcare. TWC aims to increase reimbursement rates and has already approved rate increases.
Chair Button closed the hearing with thanks for members and panelists stating there was still much work to be done. The Committee is expected to meet again in the coming months for ongoing discussion and updates.

There was no public testimony following the end of the meeting. Watch the full hearing here.

 

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