This chapter focuses on three distinct policy issues: education, health, and immigration. Aspects considering the funding system in public schools and the challenges facing higher education in Texas, the relationship between the state and federal government in social policies and programs, such as health and human services, and the impact of immigration in the state are discussed in detail.
Spending on education is one of the largest investments the state of Texas makes in its future, and how to get the greatest return on this investment is often the source of intense debate. K–12 education policies and funding come from local state and federal governments, and adjustments have been made to make spending more substantial and equitable across districts. Assessments are an ever-evolving process where both the state and federal government tie performance to aid. Higher education in Texas receives less central control from the state but concerns over costs and fair and equitable access to a quality education have led to both legislative and judicial action.
Texas is a state with a large and quickly growing population, where a percentage of residents that’s noticeably larger than the national average lives in need. This is especially true of health insurance, as a larger proportion of Texans live without health insurance than in any other state. This creates a demand for public services that occupies a substantial part of the state budget. Texas works in conjunction with the federal government to address its residents’ needs in both subsistence and health care. Programs such as TANF and SNAP provide financial and nutritional assistance, respectively, and the federal government matches the spending Texas commits. Programs such as Medicaid and CHIP address the health-care needs of less fortunate Texans. The passage of the Affordable Care Act was opposed by Republican leaders in the state, and state officials continue to resist the federal programs related to the health-care costs.
Federal law and court rulings constrain immigration policy in Texas, and the state struggles to find policies that are both legally and politically permissible. Illegal immigration provides tax and fee revenue for the state, but local governments tend to bear the costs in the required provision of public services. In addition, the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policies have placed Texas at the forefront of the immigration debate.