Children in Texas are in a bad spot. That’s the news revealed in the 2019 Kids Count data book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. It notes that children in Texas lag behind kids in other states when it comes to economic well-being, education, health and more. And things could get worse for the Lone Star State as we approach the 2020 census.

Benefits for children in Texas have long been deficient. This is primarily due to the failures of state officials to take advantage of federal programs that could contribute hundreds of millions of dollars for children’s health insurance and education programs. With Texas failing to update its policies and invest in population counts, it will undoubtedly continue to leave this federal money on the table. 

Why is that bad?

Efficient, high-quality care and education are vital for young children. Although federal programs assist with funding, each state plays a critical role in the alignment and coordination of early care and education programs. The 2019 Kids Count data book estimates that approximately 5% of young children were not counted in the 2010 census. The lack of consensus in Texas regarding Medicaid expansion and a potentially increased under-count for the 2020 census could cost millions in federal funds that could be used to help children.

Other states, however, can learn from this situation.

Importance of Early Childhood Development and Education

According to a report, stress and adverse events such as abuse, poverty and family instability early in life can contribute to poor health outcomes and developmental delays. These issues can affect individuals throughout their lifetime, making risky behavior more likely.

Early childhood programs and comprehensive services are critical to increasing learning and improving health outcomes. High-quality educational opportunities help children prepare for kindergarten and life ahead. They can boost formative and academic gains. And with more federal funding, states can fun these programs.

There were several bills in state legislatures across the country this year addressing early childcare and education. In a Dallas Observer article, Ann Beeson stated, “The good news is that common-sense policy solutions could make conditions better for every Texas child.”

Former Representative George Miller of California and Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania agreed. “Few policy challenges are more important to our nation’s future than helping all American children get the strong start they need,” they stated in the 2017 report, A Bipartisan Case for Early Childhood Development.

Adding to that thought is Kerry Rosado, a school board member in San Jose, California, and advocate for diversity and inclusion. “All children have the right to healthcare, regardless of their legal status,” she tells Parentology, alluding to the recent debate over adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Closing the Gap

Home is where children first learn and grow. However, when both parents work or there is a toxic environment, stress adversely affects their progress. Having subsidized child care in every state can reduce stress and close the achievement gap between wealthy children and those in low-income families.

This isn’t just a fancy idea. The U.S. provided for universal public preschool during World War II. Although the program ended in 1946, since then, virtually every industrialized nation has started offering similar programs for their young children.

Expanding existing programs can help level the playing field – especially if states take advantage of the 2020 census and get their kids counted. At the state level, it can enable children from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds to take advantage of similar opportunities. On a national scale, these programs can help the next generation of Americans hold their own in the global community.