Texas is one of the largest states, serving millions of students. With such a large and growing population, Texans need information that works for them as they make education and workforce decisions. To accomplish this, legislators must champion policies that will improve data access and use.
During the 2021 regular legislative session, Texas legislators introduced promising legislation with the potential to set the foundation for future cross-agency data governance and that establishes improved coordination across the P–20W continuum (early childhood, K–12, postsecondary and workforce). Ensuring data governance by creating formal bodies of decisionmakers who have accountability for decisions about data access and use is essential to improving state data ecosystems. The movement in Texas is promising, but leaders still have more work to do. Texas legislators will need to consider future comprehensive legislation to achieve best practice data governance.
In DQC’s legislative tracking, we closely monitored three bills this session, which Governor Abbott has signed into law. These bills encourage the Texas Education Agency (TEA), Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), and Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) to come together to tackle three issues:
- Workforce development and access to meaningful P–20W continuum data
- Data management and safety
- Data-sharing agreements between stakeholders
HB 3767 creates the Texas Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative, which includes TEA, TWC, and THECB. The bill includes language that encourages cross-agency coordination by requiring regular and transparent meetings—which give stakeholders the opportunity to review and weigh in on the decisions leaders are making. The bill also requires agency leaders to set shared data-driven goals and strategies. HB 3767 includes language requiring TEA, THECB, and TWC to use the P–20W data repository as the central repository of career and education data in addition to creating a web-based library of credentials. The repository serves as a central location for career and education data and is one way that states can support access and use of valuable P–20W data. The provisions in this bill create the mechanisms for regular and shared coordination to achieve a set of P–20W goals.
SB 475 requires each state agency, including institutions of higher education, to have a data management officer. Each data management officer will be required to:
- Coordinate with the Texas Department of Information Resources;
- Serve on the Data Management Advisory Committee that will develop statewide data ethics, principles, goals, strategies, standards, and architecture; and
- Establish agency-level data governance processes, which are essential for data quality and security.
The measures in SB 475—especially those that require agency leaders to come together to identify shared goals and strategies—create alignment across state agencies to improve data management and security.
SB 788 requires TEA, THECB, and TWC to create model data-sharing agreements for sharing student information between public schools, higher education institutions, and other entities authorized to receive student information and data. Data-sharing agreements are formal documents that outline the role of each entity, including the information each entity will provide. The language in this bill attempts to reduce friction between local practices by creating a state-approved data-sharing agreement.
We applaud the work of Texas policymakers and advocates to pass these bills this session. While these bills alone will not achieve fully implemented data governance in Texas, codifying these changes in legislation sustainably advances the data ecosystem in the state. Texas state leaders must continue to be thoughtful during the implementation of these bills to ensure real changes to data access and use are happening for everyday Texans.