Key Accomplishments

OUR PURPOSE

Texas Appleseed works to change unjust laws and policies that prevent Texans from realizing their full potential.

OUR PATH TO JUSTICE

Texas Appleseed conducts data-driven research that uncovers inequity in laws and policies and identifies solutions for lasting, concrete change. We do this by anchoring a dynamic network of pro bono partners and collaborators to develop and advocate for innovative and practical solutions to complex issues.

HOW WE WORK

We take our work wherever we believe it can do the most good:

  • Public policy advocacy in the Texas Legislature
  • Influencing policies and practices in Texas’ state and local agencies and school districts
  • Working with cities and counties to pass strong local ordinances
  • Partnering with local communities and organizations to provide policy and technical expertise
  • Targeted legal action, including litigation
  • Training judges, lawyers, and others in best practices
  • Working with businesses to change market practices

ABOUT US

Click here for our mission statement, an infographic on key milestones, and a video about our projects.

THE IMPACT OF OUR WORK

  • Texas students can no longer be charged with a crime or face fines for truancy after legislation supported by Texas Appleseed passed in 2015.
  • School-based police officers in Texas school districts with an enrollment of 30,000 or more students must receive youth-focused education and training after legislation supported by Texas Appleseed passed in 2015.
  • Over 50% drop in the number of Class C tickets issued to schoolchildren for minor misbehavior after legislation supported by Texas Appleseed passed in 2013.
  • 8.9 million Texans are now protected from abusive payday and auto title lending practices via strong city ordinances, established in part through our legal framework.
  • No child under 12 can be criminally prosecuted in adult court for Class C Misdemeanors after legislation supported by Texas Appleseed passed in 2011.
  • $14 million in flood protection drainage projects for Texas colonia residents following Texas Appleseed and its partner’s work to see that low-income communities get their share of disaster recovery funds.
  • $40 million in additional funds allocated to help very low-income Houstonians repair their homes damaged from Hurricane Ike after Texas Appleseed’s intervention to ensure their share of disaster funds.
  • All criminal defendants in Texas now have the right to see all of the evidence against them after the legislature passed the Michael Morton Act, influenced by Texas Appleseed and its partner’s report on the state’s criminal discovery practices.
  • More than a 70% reduction in the number of youth in state secure lockups following Texas Appleseed’s work to improve conditions in the Texas Youth Commission and then restructure the juvenile justice system.
  • 300 low-income minority students have been awarded our Diversity Legal Scholars scholarship to take the Kaplan LSAT prep course and get into law school.
  • 569 low-income public housing apartments destroyed by Hurricane Ike are being rebuilt in Galveston at the insistence of Texas Appleseed and its partners.
  • 500+ foster children in long-term care have found permanent homes when judges and other stakeholders changed their practices as a result of the advocacy of Texas Appleseed.
  • 10 Mental Health Public Defender Offices created in Texas based on our effort to ensure best practices in representing defendants with mental health issues.
  • Trained 200+ judges, prosecutors, attorneys and others in best practices so that more foster children find permanent homes.
  • All criminal defendants in Texas now have improved access to quality appointed counsel based on the Fair Defense Act, advocated by Texas Appleseed in 2001.

Foster Care & the Courts »

  • Over the last few years, more than 500 foster children in long-term care have found permanent homes when judges and others changed their practices as a result of the advocacy of Appleseed and others.
  • More than 400 judges, prosecutors, attorneys and others now trained in best practices so that more foster children find permanent homes.
  • Training Judges and Others in improving outcomes for children in Long-term Care. Permanency Summit.
    • 2014: Participated in five local training for CASA advocates, attorneys, judges and DFPS workers on Permanency Values
    • 2012: Co-sponsored a Permanency Summit with the Supreme Court of Texas’ Children’s Commission & the Texas Center for the Judiciary on how courts and stakeholders can improve outcomes for children in the state’s foster care system.
  • Major research on improving court practices for children in long-term care.
    • December 2010: Released a major report commissioned by the Supreme Court of Texas’ Children’s Commission on the role of the courts and judicial system in helping improve the lives of children in long-term foster care.
    • 2012: Released a follow-up report on the costs and impact of using of targeted promising court practices to move children out of foster care.
  • Assisting older foster youth.
    • 2014: Created a prototype for youth who leave care to have a safe, permanent way to electronically store copies of their vital documents, through a civic Hack-a-thon, the Austin Civic Hack for Change.
    • 2009: Helped secure passage of legislation to extend court jurisdiction for foster children receiving services beyond age 18, to allow youth the choice of staying in care if they want or need services.

Juvenile Justice »

  • Legislative gains.
    • 2015: Advocated for passage of SB 1630, which ends the practice of confining many juvenile offenders in far-away state facilities. These kids will be in regional facilities, located closer to their families, decreasing the likelihood of recidivism and ensuring a connection to their communities. This also expands monitoring and assessment procedures to ensure the safety of children in regional facilities.
  • Over the last several years, there has been a more than 70% reduction in the number of youth in state secure lockups following Appleseed’s work to improve conditions in the Texas Youth Commission and then restructure the juvenile justice system.
  • Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD).
    • 2011: Took a leadership role in helping pass statewide restructuring of Texas juvenile justice system to place greater emphasis on community services for court-involved youth and reduce the number of remote state secure lock-ups
  • Urged better programming and safety in state secure youth facilities.
    • August 2010: Found serious safety and treatment concerns in facilities and requested a U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), the predecessor juvenile justice agency. This helped prompt a restructuring of the entire system in 2011.
    • 2008: Brought suit and negotiated new policies to scale back use of pepper spray in TYC facilities and worked with the TYC to replace widespread use of restraints and seclusion with a program that directly addresses behavior problems of young detainees.
  • Legal resources.
    • 2005, 2009: Developed and distributed reports for Texas judges and tens of thousands of handbooks for attorneys, advocates, defendants and their families on issues critical to protecting the legal rights of juvenile defendants.

Payday Loan & Financial Services Reform »

  • Payday & Auto Title Lending Reform.
    • More than 8 million Texas residents now protected from abusive payday and auto title lending by strong city ordinances which Appleseed has helped pass.
    • 2011-current: Worked with cities, faith and community organizations to support passage of local ordinances to rein in high-cost payday and auto title loans in the absence of state regulation of this industry’s impact on consumers and local economies.
    • 2011: Helped secure passage of “first step” reform legislation to license payday and auto title lenders and bring greater transparency to this multi-million dollar industry in Texas.
  • Safeguards on remitting money abroad.
    • U.S. families who send money oversees are now protected with remittance rules, assuring they know the true cost of sending the money and have full disclosures.
    • 2013: Texas Appleseed research, in collaboration with the national Appleseed office, helped to inform the final remittance rules adopted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
    • 2003: Led an initiative to pass Texas’ 2003 landmark law to protect consumers who “remit” or wire funds internationally — providing the model for far-reaching remittance protections contained in federal financial regulatory reform legislation passed in July 2010.
  • Texas Fair Lending Alliance.
    • 2012: Helped build a new broad-based coalition to push for rate and fee reductions on payday & auto title loans for consumers who, all too often, become trapped in a cycle of debt while trying to repay these loans.
  • Lower-cost consumer loan alternatives.
    • 2012: Published a report on more affordable small-dollar loan alternatives to payday and auto title loans ripe for expansion in Texas.
  • Financial literacy.
    • 2005-2008: Created and distributed more than 500,000 English and Spanish language financial education brochures to help underserved communities learn how to open a bank account, build credit, and make safe loans.
    • Shared our work around financial literacy for recent immigrants with countries around the world, who learned from our work and replicated our brochures.
  • FDIC Texas New Alliance Task Force.
    • 2004-2005: Partnered with the FDIC and Federal Reserve to launch this Task Force based on a successful FDIC model in Chicago. The Task Force brought together financial institutions, regulators and community organizations to address the banking needs of immigrant communities. This initiative evolved into the Texas Alliance for Economic Inclusion, part of the national FDIC effort to improve financial inclusion of underserved communities.

Texas’ School-to-Prison Pipeline »

  • Legislative gains.
    • 2015: Advocated for passage of HB 2398, which decriminalizes truancy in Texas. The law changes the way school districts and courts treat children who have unexcused absences from school, making it a civil matter, and putting Texas in step with how 48 other states treat truancy.
    • 2015: Helped with passage of HB 2684, which requires school districts with an enrollment of 30,000 or more students to adopt a youth-focused education and training program for school resource officers and school district police officers.
    • 2013: Saw a more than 50% drop in the number of Class C tickets issued to school children for minor misbehavior after legislation pushed by Appleseed passed in 2013.
    • 2013: Two bills in 2013, SB 393 and SB 1114, virtually eliminated the ability to ticket students under age 17 for school-related misbehavior.
    • 2011: Succeeded in helping pass new state laws to restrict student ticketing for younger students.
    • 2009: Succeeded in helping pass new state laws to eliminate expulsions from disciplinary alternative schools for persistent minor misbehavior, and require school districts to consider a student’s intent and disability when making disciplinary decisions.
  • School-to-prison pipeline research.
    • December 2010: Published major report about Texas’ practice of ticketing and arresting students and using force in schools.
    • April 2010: Published major report on the disproportionate impact of discretionary school expulsion on minority and special education students.
    • October 2007: Published major report focusing on in-school and out-of-school student suspension and referrals to Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs.
  • Participated in large-scale, Texas-based research.
    • 2011: Contributed to landmark reporting by the Council of State Governments Justice Center that shed new light on the school-to-prison pipeline and reinforced Texas Appleseed’s earlier research findings.
  • Parent and student resources.
    • 2014: Developed a new, free video series called Youth In Court with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, based on TRLA’s handbooks. The videos explain the court process and how students can defend themselves if charged with a Class C misdemeanor for a school-based criminal offense.
    • 2009: Developed and distributed a parent guide about school discipline.
  • Changing practices through administrative complaints.
    • 2013: Texas Appleseed joined the Brazos County NAACP, NAACP LDF, and the National Center for Youth Law in filing a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, alleging discrimination against Bryan ISD for disparities in Class C misdemeanor tickets issued to African-American students for Disruption of Class and Disorderly Conduct.
    • 2013: Texas Appleseed joined the National Center for Youth Law and Disability Rights Texas in filing a complaint with the Department of Justice against Dallas County and four Dallas area school districts, alleging civil rights and constitutional violations related to truancy prosecutions

Disaster Recovery and Fair Housing »

Hurricanes Ike and Dolly

  • Signed Conciliation Agreement.
    • May 2010: Signed a HUD-approved Conciliation Agreement with the State — the result of two fair housing administrative complaints – with our partner Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, that governs the distribution of $3 billion in disaster recovery funds, and specifically over $1.7 billion in the second round of federal disaster aid. This agreement:
      • Increased funds for low- and moderate-income families and communities and for rebuilding housing by $150 million;
      • Guaranteed the rebuilding of public and affordable housing;
      • Created a mobility program that allowed homeowners to move out of disaster vulnerable areas;
      • Ensured that low-income populations must be served proportionally with housing funds;
      • Increased transparency and data collection; and
      • Required the State and its local subrecipients to analyze their funding and program decisions and ensure that they met fair housing and civil rights requirements.
  • Legislative gains.
    • 2009: Helped pass HB 2450, allowing low-income families without clear titles to their home to qualify for disaster assistance now and for future disasters to repair their inherited property with alternative documentation of ownership.
  • Rebuilding housing.
    • 2014: The Galveston Public Housing Authority broke ground on two mixed-income developments that are part of the plan to rebuild low-income public housing destroyed by Hurricane Ike, the culmination of a four-year battle that will finally allow families displaced by Hurricane Ike to come home.
    • 2013: Our advocacy with local partners for rebuilding public housing in the City of Orange in safer and higher opportunity areas resulted in a plan to rebuild and move several developments to higher opportunity areas with less crime and better schools.
    • 2013: Reached agreement with the City of Galveston and Galveston Housing Authority on a plan to rebuild public housing on the Island following four years of City refusal to rebuild and highly racialized public opposition from certain groups on the Island.
    • 2010: Used our Conciliation Agreement with the State to support the Texas Organizing Project (TOP) in obtaining an agreement with the Mayor of Houston that moved $30 million in disaster recovery funds to repairing single family homes.
  • Working with the hardest hit communities for fair access to disaster recovery resources.
    • 2014: Following an intensive and unprecedented public consultation process and market studies, Texas Appleseed, TxLIHIS and TOP reached an agreement with the City of Houston to target disaster recovery funds, including housing funds and $26 million in infrastructure funds for drainage, to three selected Community Revitalization Areas in neighborhoods hardest hit by Hurricane Ike.
    • 2012: Signed agreement with the Mayor of Houston and TOP that affirmed the goal of using disaster recovery funds to create economically and racially integrated neighborhoods, while preventing the involuntary displacement of the historic minority and lower income residents. The City committed to considering these target neighborhoods a priority for ongoing and significant public investment beyond disaster recovery.
    • 2011: Worked in partnership with colonia residents, organizing groups and TRLA to obtain $14 million for badly needed drainage in the colonias, which suffered the worst Hurricane Dolly flooding and some of which had standing water for weeks after the storm.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

  • Legal action to protect rights of disaster victims.
    • 2010: A settlement was reached in Ridgely v. FEMA, a class action Texas Appleseed co-counseled, challenging FEMA’s denial of benefits and procedures for collecting overpayments. FEMA agreed to pay over $2.6 million into a settlement fund.
    • 2006: Co-counseled Watson, et al. v. FEMA, a class-action suit to prevent FEMA from cutting off emergency housing assistance and rendering homeless more than 50,000 low-income evacuees of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Along with other interventions, FEMA ultimately extended their deadline for housing assistance by almost a full year.
    • 2006: Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FEMA developed a policy making benefit applications and other critical information more easily accessible to hurricane disaster victims who are deaf and hearing impaired based on advocacy by Texas Appleseed and other organizations.
  • Increasing access to legal assistance for disaster victims.
    • 2006: Organized FEMA Appeals Clinics with Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program, Lone Star Legal Aid, and the City of Houston, for evacuees appealing denial of FEMA benefits. More than 14 clinics were held across the city, serving more than 500 clients.
    • August 2006: Co-sponsored a Hurricane Housing Forum in Houston that provided information and assistance to over 800 evacuees.
  • Utility relief for evacuees.
    • August 2006: Obtained $1 million of relief for Katrina evacuees in Houston who could not afford utility deposits. Joined the City of Houston, Office of Public Utility Counsel, Texas Ratepayers Organization to Save Energy, and Texas Legal Services Center in filing a petition to the Public Utility Commission of Texas to waive utility service deposits for evacuees, which resulted in major electric providers in Houston voluntarily donating almost $500,000 for utility deposits to social service agencies and allowing some hurricane victims to make special payment arrangements.
  • Helping make disaster recovery programs work for homeowners.
    • 2008: Successfully advocated for policy and program changes in the Rita homeowner assistance program that made the program more accessible and navigable for low-income homeowners, including rewriting the application that was initially 52 pages long, required the applicant to read at college level, and contained 14 affidavits that needed to be witnessed and notarized.
    • April 2009: Convinced the state housing agency to change its policy on clear title as a requirement for disaster recovery benefits, allowing low-income and largely minority disaster victims to rebuild their homes.
  • National research on hurricane evacuees.
    • August 2006: In collaboration with national Appleseed and pro bono law firms, we published A Continuing Storm: The On-Going Struggles of Hurricane Katrina Evacuees, a comprehensive study of the status of more than one million Katrina evacuees in six cities across the country.

Fair Housing

  • Analyses of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice.
    • Communities that receive HUD funds must have Analyses of Impediments (AI). These AIs are a required template for communities to use to address past housing and public services discrimination. A strong AI will assure that a community is deliberate about complying with fair housing laws.
      • 2011: HUD approves the State’s Phase I Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (AI) for disaster areas which is clear and understandable. Texas Appleseed and TxLIHIS had given input to the State to assure its compliance with federal law.
  • Locating housing in higher opportunity areas.
    • 2014: Successfully opposed a state-subsidized project to rehabilitate an assisted development on the fence line of the largest refinery in North America. The owner and HUD are moving tenants out of the property to safer areas.

Major Awards

  • Light of Justice Award from Texas Defender Service, 2013
  • Excellence in Public Interest Award to Deborah Fowler from Texas Law Fellowships, 2011
  • Ma’aT Justice Award to Deborah Fowler from Women & The Law Section of the State Bar of Texas, 2011
  • Impact Award in Poverty Law to Maddie Sloan from the State Bar of Texas Poverty Law Section, 2011
  • Best of the Best Award to Ann Baddour from El Paso’s Invest in the American Dream Initiative, 2009
  • Education Research Award from the Texas Association on Mental Retardation, 2006
  • Pioneer Award to Ann Baddour from the Texas New Alliance Task Force, 2005
  • Ring of Honor Award from the Mental Health Association in Texas, 2003
  • W. Frank Newton Award from the State Bar of Texas, 2002