AUSTIN, Texas — Texas lawmakers say they are working to increase safety and education standards at daycares across the state with several bills filed in the 86th legislative session.
Last December, KVUE's partners at the Austin American-Statesman released a year-long report detailing the lack of oversight and dangers in licensed and unlicensed child care facilities. They found that since 2007, 90 children had died and thousands more had suffered abuse.
Texas lawmakers and advocates with the organization Children at Risk said one million Texas children are in early education and child care facilities, but only 11 percent of the 15,000 licensed facilities in the state meet the Texas Rising Star quality standards for safety and learning.
At a news conference Tuesday, lawmakers said the state needs higher standards for all facilities and data on a center's safety and education should be easier for parents to access.
"We need to make sure that our children are safe and that is going to require us to do some things from a regulatory standpoint," Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) said. "We are working very hard, and it gets said every time we talk about one of our bills that what we don't do is create an unintended consequence."
Sen. Watson said one of those consequences lawmakers are trying to avoid is more expensive daycare. But he also pointed out Texas receives $700 million a year from the federal government to help families pay for child care, and he wants to make sure that money is being well spent on quality care.
He has filed bills to increase reporting to improve transparency and a bill that would fund the state unit that investigates and shuts down illegal daycares.
Leaders at Children at Risk said other bills that would help increase safety and quality at child care centers in Texas are:
- SB 568: Establishes penalties/fines, liability insurance coverage, enhanced consumer information, strengthen licensing renewal process, establish safe sleeping standards
- SB 1002: Increasing transparency, coordination and quality for the child care subsidy program, along with improved professional development
- SB 705/HB 2866: Reporting of child deaths, abuse/neglect; teacher training
- HB 941: Information provided on Health and Human Services Child Care website
- HB 507: Establishing a task force to coordinate and make recommendations on parent engagement and education programs
- SB 952/HB 1808: Standards for nutrition, physical activity, and screen time for certain child-care facilities and homes
- SB 708/HB 1682: Collect and report ratio and safety data