Press Release: Updated Dashboard Shows Opportunities to Improve Texas School Readiness

For Immediate Release
April 24, 2024
Contact: Peter Clark,

Texas School Readiness Dashboard Includes Data and Policy Recommendations on Early Learning, Health Care, Parent-Child Interactions, and Basic Household Resources

Austin – The Texas School Readiness Dashboard released today shows that Texas is falling short in a number of early childhood measures — such as children’s health coverage, child hunger, and access to high-quality child care — that play a key role in determining whether children start kindergarten ready to learn and succeed in school. The Dashboard, released by Texans Care for Children, takes a holistic approach to evaluating school readiness, reporting on multiple indicators across four domains: Enriching Early Learning Experiences, Positive Family-Child Interactions, Good Health and Development, and Sufficient Household Resources. Following up on the original publication of the Dashboard in 2022, the updated Dashboard released today includes more recent data, updated policy recommendations, and — for the first time — data comparing different regions of Texas. The Dashboard is available at

“The data clearly show that Texas leaders have more work to do to support children during the critical period of brain development from birth to age five so they are ready to shine when they start school,” said Chelsea Cornelius, Director of Research and Evaluation at Texans Care for Children. “Texas policymakers will need to address children’s health insurance, access to high-quality child care, and other early childhood policy priorities to ensure that children are prepared for school. We’re also pleased to see that the Legislature made progress last year on some of our previous recommendations, such as extending postpartum health coverage.”

The Dashboard is designed to help state policymakers, community leaders, parents, and others set goals and measure progress towards ensuring more children are school-ready. In Laredo, for instance, the Dashboard helped inform the “Brain Bag” initiative launched by Laredo Learns.

The data reveal that Texas is doing poorly in a number of areas that are critical to school readiness. For example:

  • Many children have limited access to child care, with 83 percent of Texas kids under age six from low-income families living in “child care deserts” (meaning there is inadequate access to subsidized child care). 
  • Nearly 200,000 Texas children under age six are going without health insurance, giving the state one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation for young children. 
  • The state ranks last in the nation on health coverage for women of childbearing age with low incomes.
  • Texas also ranks 50th in the nation for the percentage of children under age six whose families read to them every day.

“It is clear there is a need for legislation that would alleviate some of the barriers that hardworking Texans and their families face in attempting to access health care,” said Representative Sam Harless, Chair of the Texas House Committee on Health Care Reform. “We can and should continue to pursue opportunities to ensure that children eligible for health insurance coverage actually get enrolled.”

“There is no doubt that the Legislature has more work to do on child care, health care, nutrition, and the other policy areas that are critical to children’s lives, inside and outside the classroom,” said Rep. Diego Bernal, Chair of the Texas House Early Childhood Caucus. “Children’s experiences during the first few years of life are the foundation for their futures. The Dashboard confirms that we need a stronger commitment from state leaders to support children during those early years and beyond.”

The Dashboard also includes bright spots, reporting on previous Dashboard recommendations that passed the Legislature in 2023. The Legislature passed House Bill 12, for example, extending Medicaid postpartum health coverage for moms from two months to 12 months. Lawmakers also approved an additional $63 million for Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) services for toddlers with disabilities and a $65 million increase in evidence-based child abuse and neglect prevention programs.

For the first time, the Dashboard includes data comparing different regions of the state on several of the school readiness indicators. For example, all Texas regions have uninsured rates for children under age six that exceed the national average, but the Lubbock area has the worst rate, followed by West Texas and the Dallas region. By contrast, the Austin area and Corpus Christi area have the lowest uninsured rates in the state for young children. Lubbock and West Texas also have the state’s worst rates of infants and toddlers completing their Medicaid-covered well-child visits, which are critical for tracking growth and development, providing immunizations, identifying developmental delays or disabilities, and more.

The Dashboard shows that school readiness challenges face children of every racial/ethnic group while also revealing areas of racial/ethnic disparities. For example, more than half of White, Black, and Hispanic children in Texas are not read to by their families on a daily basis, although the rates are worse for Black and Hispanic kids. Additionally, about one in four Texas families who are eligible for SNAP food assistance are not enrolled in the program — despite the high rates of child hunger in Texas and its impact on school readiness — but eligible Hispanic children are more likely to miss out on this support compared to eligible White and Black children in the state. In Texas, about 31 percent of eligible Hispanic families are unenrolled in SNAP, compared to 12 percent of Black families and 11 percent of White families.

The Dashboard outlines a number of policy recommendations to the Legislature and other state leaders to ensure that more children start school ready to succeed. The Dashboard urges the Legislature to pass the “Express Lane” enrollment bill, which would use already-verified data to enroll currently eligible children in Medicaid health insurance if they are uninsured. The bill, filed by Reps. John Bucy, Sam Harless, and others, passed the Texas House during the 2023 session but did not pass the Senate. The Dashboard also recommends that the Legislature begin to provide bedrock state funding to help offset child care programs’ fixed costs, including educator wages, and increase the number of high-quality child care providers, especially in designated child care deserts. 

“Taking a broad look at early childhood experiences in Texas — from child hunger to early learning to health care and beyond — is critical to improving school readiness in our state,” said Peter M. Miller, President and CEO of The Meadows Foundation. “We are hopeful that the Dashboard will be a useful tool for the many communities and leaders committed to ensuring that all Texans reach their full potential.”

After working with a wide variety of stakeholders across the state to determine the proper indicators to measure and to develop policy recommendations, Texans Care for Children developed the Dashboard with research support from the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center. The Meadows Foundation has played a key leadership role in supporting the Dashboard since its inception. This project is also made possible by support from the Alliance for Early Success, the Episcopal Health Foundation, the Shield-Ayres Foundation, the Pioneer Foundation, and the Powell Foundation.


Peter Clark