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Future of Texas – Unscripted: Class is in Session for Public Education

Published Mar 26, 2021 by A.J. Mistretta

Future of Texas

In this episode of Future of Texas – Unscripted, we discuss major milestones for broadband legislation and revisit public education bills of sessions past. Partnership Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, Lindsay Munoz, discusses with Partnership Public Policy Director, Ben Melson. 

In this episode we cover:

  • Statewide broadband bills get heard in committees
  • Continuing school finance needs
  • Legislation to address school campus turnaround plans

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Houston Legislators Lead on Building Skilled Texas Workforce

Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) and Representative Jim Murphy (R-Houston) have introduced critical workforce legislation to align the work of the state’s three major education and workforce bodies to strengthen the Texas talent pipeline and improve workforce development outcomes across the state. This legislation, Senate Bill 1622 and House Bill 3767, would build on existing collaborative work of these bodies – the Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and Texas Workforce Commission – and establish a permanent Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative. The Partnership and UpSkill Houston have provided support to and testimony in favor of these bills under consideration during the 87th Legislative Session.  The Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative has been introduced in the backdrop of a severe economic crisis driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and energy industry downturn in Texas that has made closing existing gaps between employers’ workforce demands and workers’ employment needs more urgent than ever before. The pandemic accelerated a fundamental shift toward technology-enabled, innovation-based economies already underway in Texas and across the United States, driving trends with lasting skills implications for employers, workers, and education systems. Though the full effects of the pandemic and downturn on the region’s economy and workforce may not be known for years, the pace of change and continued uncertainty will likely require more innovation and agility within our traditional education systems to address changing skill needs and meet the talent shortages.  We know through our work with the UpSkill Houston initiative that: The adoption of digital and automation technologies into workflows has increased the need for workers – regardless of their industry, occupation, or education level – to possess strong digital skills. Skills are becoming obsolete more quickly, and workers will need to routinely upskill to keep pace with the speed of change.  Employers are placing a higher premium on so-called soft, or non-cognitive, skills that are essential for baseline success in the workplace.  Innovative and agile solutions are needed for Texas to rebound amid continuing change and maintain a quality workforce with the skills and education necessary to compete globally while ensuring individual prosperity. The Partnership, through UpSkill Houston, highlights that better data and coordination between employers and key education and community stakeholders can drive performance and outcomes. This work has demonstrated how business and industry leaders are increasingly using data analytics to assess their practices, make decisions, and drive continual improvement. More and more employers are focused on skills-based hiring and using data to communicate the skills they value in their workforce. UpSkill Houston’s partners are leading examples of how employers, education systems and nonprofits can effectively collaborate to advance their common goals and benefit the communities they serve – and with positive results.  State lawmakers and leaders continue to position Texas to develop the high-quality skilled workforce the state needs to grow and compete globally while providing economic opportunity for future generations. The Tri-Agency initiative would formalize existing cooperative efforts between the TEA, THECB, and TWC initially begun at the request of Governor Greg Abbott to assess local economic activity, examine workforce challenges and opportunities, and consider innovative approaches to meeting the state’s workforce goals.  A permanent, state-led Tri-Agency Workforce initiative, as proposed, would coordinate and optimize information and resources and align and drive performance across TEA, THECB, and TWC.  It would create a unified workforce data repository that would improve the Texas longitudinal data systems to identify and analyze key trends in education and workforce. In addition, aggregated longitudinal data would help key stakeholders continually improve their programs and practices not unlike the way businesses assess and improve supply chains. During the 86th Legislative Session, in 2019, the Partnership supported legislation intended to build upon that work and create the Commission on Texas Workforce of the Future to chart the course for the state’s workforce development policy by bringing together stakeholders and identifying policy recommendations to help Texas build a pipeline of skilled talent. The legislation (House Bill 3511) was not signed into law, so the commission was not created. But the effort heightened awareness of the vital role of business leaders and employers have in the workforce development conversation and in a pipeline of skilled talent fit for the future. The proposed Tri-Agency legislation identifies the important need for strong career coaching, navigation and support services for students and adult learners. We know from the more than 200 employer, education and nonprofit UpSkill Houston partners that understanding the skills needs of employers is necessary to assist students and individuals as they navigate careers and identify upskilling opportunities. We also know that students and adult learners will require various support to navigate the changing nature of work and identify high-value skilling and upskilling opportunities. The state’s economy and industries are being reshaped by technology and other global forces at a more rapid pace than before, impacting talent needs. Ensuring Texas has the finest workforce in the world and provides economic opportunity for future generations will require sustained alignment, innovation, and performance. This can be achieved if such a coordinated initiative is formalized and guided by the needs of employers and the workforce, and grounded in data and real-time insights from employers, as exemplified by the work of UpSkill Houston and its partners. Peter Beard is the Partnership’s senior vice president of regional workforce development and leader of its UpSkill Houston initiative. Beard testified in favor of SB 1622 and HB 3767 before the Senate Higher Education Committee and the House International Relations & Economic Development Committee. Learn more about UpSkill Houston.  
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Healthy Families, Healthy Texas Bills Pass House and Partnership Pushes Workforce Improvements

Week In Review There are just six weeks left in the Texas legislative session and some important procedural deadlines are rapidly approaching. The House passed important health care legislation and set the biennial budget debate for next week. The Partnership testified in support of two workforce development bills. Important Week for Major Health Care Legislation Speaker Dade Phelan’s Healthy Families, Healthy Texas bipartisan health care package passed the House this week. The bills are expected to heard in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee soon.   The health care package includes House Bill 4 by Representative Four Price (R-Amarillo), which would codify the waivers used for telemedicine and telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill provides greater access to health care for many underserved communities by authorizing the state to reimburse providers for telemedicine and telehealth services. Two other bills in the package provide improved access to health care for new mothers and children - House Bill 133 by Representative Toni Rose (D-Dallas) and House Bill 290 by Representative Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio).  House Bill 133 allows new mothers to keep Medicaid insurance for up to one year after delivery. Texas women with low incomes are currently only eligible for Medicaid coverage while they are pregnant, and the coverage expires 60 days after delivery. However, one-third of maternal deaths in Texas occur between 43 days and one year after delivery. House Bill 133 follows the top recommendation of the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee by providing uninterrupted coverage to new mothers. House Bill 290 is designed to prevent children who receive health care coverage through Children's Medicaid from experiencing a lapse in coverage. Texas already has an effective and accurate system for determining a child's eligibility at the time of application and during an annual renewal process. However, the current system adds four mid-year eligibility reviews at 5, 6, 7 and 8 months, which often leads to eligible children losing their coverage. House Bill 290 replaces the four mid-year reviews with a single mid-year review, and therefore works to improve health outcomes for young children by providing them with two separate six-month periods of health care coverage.   Partnership Pushes Workforce Improvements Peter Beard, Senior Vice President of Regional Workforce Development at the Partnership testified before the House International Relations & Economic Development committee in support of House Bill 3767 authored by Representative Jim Murphy (R - Houston). The bill supports workforce development in the state by establishing the Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative and additional employer workforce data reporting. During his testimony, Beard highlighted the key provisions of HB 3767 that strengthen and enhance the current work of the three agencies - Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and Texas Workforce Commission - as they focus on developing the highest quality skilled workforce Texas needs to grow and compete globally. These key provisions include: The Tri-Agency Initiative created by the bill will coordinate and optimize information and resources and align and drive performance across TEA, THECB, and TWC.   The Unified Workforce Data Repository will improve the Texas longitudinal data systems to identify and analyze key trends in education and workforce.   State Workforce Development Goals and Strategies will assist the state in managing and driving accountability by measuring the performance of the collective work of the three agencies.   Career Navigation and Skills Identification is important to assist individuals as they navigate the changing nature of work and identify high-value skilling and upskilling opportunities.  The Partnership also provided written testimony for House Bill 3003 by Representative Tan Parker (R - Flower Mound), which establishes the Texas Reskilling and Upskilling through Education (TRUE) Initiative to support workforce education at public junior colleges. Today, Houston has more than 200,000 individuals who have been displaced in their employment by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn. The TRUE program will help Houston address the reality that almost all of these displaced workers will need additional skills that align with the current and emerging needs of the employers in the Houston regional economy. Community colleges will play an essential role in upskilling displaced and incumbent workers with the education and skills that are needed in the post-pandemic Houston economy. House Appropriations Committee Advances Budget The House Appropriations Committee passed the budget this week, setting the stage for a House floor debate next week. Changes made by the Appropriations Committee amount to a $4 billion lower all-funds budget of $246.7 billion versus $250.7 billion as passed by the Senate last week. General revenue spending is essentially the same, at $117.9 billion, with the differences in the House and Senate plans deriving from changes in Federal funds for health care and higher local school property tax revenues offsetting some state education funding. Coastal Barrier System Heard in Committee Senate Natural Resources Committee heard Senate Bill 1266 by Senator Larry Taylor (R - Friendswood), which continues the Joint Interim Committee to Study a Coastal Barrier System through the following interim. The Texas Gulf Coast is a vital part of Texas' economy, and is home to the largest and most important concentration of petroleum refining and petrochemical processing plants in the United States. Its location, however, leaves the region and its residents vulnerable to hurricanes, storm surge, and other severe weather events. The committee, first established in 2013, was created to study the logistics of constructing a coastal barrier protection system, and passage of this bill will allow stakeholders to continue the discussion as the projects move toward implementation. Click here to view the Partnership’s Executive Priorities. Sign-up to receive Legislative and other Public Policy updates directly to your inbox.
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