Speaking on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children.” A few months later, I was born. I just happened to be White, which opened invisible doors to success that were all too often closed to children of color – a fact I witnessed firsthand as the daughter and granddaughter of public school teachers.
Too many children in Texas today still face tremendous barriers to opportunity because of the color of their skin. It is now past time to expand opportunity for every child.
For over 30 years, the Center for Public Policy Priorities has used data and analysis to advocate for solutions that enable Texans of all backgrounds to reach their full potential. For more than 20 years, CPPP has been the official Texas state affiliate of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS Count project. This year, I am excited to announce that CPPP is taking a long overdue step to expand the analysis of racial and ethnic disparities in our policy work.
Recognizing that we needed to deepen our own knowledge first, CPPP kicked off this effort in November with a 1.5-day all-staff training on how public policies can either advance or impede racial equity, diversity, and inclusion in Texas. Two dynamic leaders from the Race Matters Institute took us on a deep-dive to learn why race, class, and place-based strategies are critical to achieving a Texas where people of all backgrounds have the chance to be healthy, well-educated and financially secure. We’ve now launched an internal Racial Equity Working Group to help guide our efforts this year and beyond.
To put our commitment into practice, I’m also excited to announce that CPPP’s 2016 Texas Kids Count project will include an analysis of racial and ethnic inequity in children’s well-being. To realize our vision of a Texas that provides opportunity for all, a child’s risks or opportunities should not be dictated by her family’s income, ZIP code, or her race or ethnicity. We will examine why there are such significant disparities in child well-being by race and ethnicity, what policies may have created, promoted or ignored differential barriers that children face, and how smart public policies can both raise the bar for all kids while closing the gaps in child well-being for kids of color. Stay tuned for more information about our release events and workshops around the state.
We know that better public policies can change outcomes for Texas kids. CPPP worked to help establish the Children’s Health Insurance Program in Texas, and then to extend the same kind of easy enrollment and renewal of Medicaid for children. From fewer than 1 million Texas children with health coverage in 1999, we now have more than 3.5 million kids today covered by Medicaid and CHIP.
As we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, let’s renew our commitment to expanding opportunity for every Texas child.