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.

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

Key Accomplishments

The Impact of Our Work (Various Projects)
  • Texas' pre-K through 2nd grade students can no longer receive an out-of-school suspension for minor behavior after legislation supported by Texas Appleseed passed in 2017.
  • 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.
  • 10 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.
Criminal Justice Reform
  • Legislative gains
    • 2019: Successfully advocated for legislation (originally filed as SB 1637/HB 465 and passed as an amendment to SB 346) to ensure people who cannot afford their fines and costs have a right to a hearing where a judge will consider their ability to pay and impose an alternative sentence when appropriate, among other things.
    • 2019: Worked in coalition with other advocates to support the passage of SB 2048 to end the Driver Responsibility Program, leading to the lifting of approximately 1 million driver’s license suspensions on account of unpaid surcharges and the forgiveness of $2.5 billion in debt owed by Texas drivers.
    • 2017: Supported legislation (SB 1913 and HB 351) that improved the fairness of court procedures for people unable to pay their fines and fees, including expanding the availability of community service in lieu of payment as well as other options and limiting warrants issued for nonpayment of fines.
    • 2013: Successfully advocated for the passage of the Michael Morton Act, which requires prompt and broad disclosure of information held by the prosecution in all criminal cases
  • Reports and research
Disaster Recovery & 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.
Education Justice (including School-to-Prison Pipeline)
  • Legislative gains
    • 2019: Spearheaded efforts surrounding SB 1707, which limits school police officer duties so that they are not involved in routine student discipline. The law also requires that school districts write out the roles and responsibilities of school police, including in student codes of conduct.
    • 2019: SB 11 is the omnibus school safety bill that includes provisions Texas Appleseed advocated for, particularly formulating threat assessment teams in Texas school districts. Passed with the tragedies of Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas, in mind, each district must establish a threat assessment and safe and supportive school team and receive training from the Texas School Safety Center or a regional educational service center. SB 11 also includes a school safety allotment, at just under $10 per student, and districts can use it to invest in more mental health support services for their campuses. 
    • 2017: Advocated for passage of HB 674, which prohibits out-of-school suspensions for pre-K through 2nd grade students, with the exception of some offenses required by law.
    • 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
    • March 2019: Our white paper, Guarding Our Most Precious Resources, looks at the way schools are staffed with counselors and mental health professionals compared with school police. One finding is that schools are unevenly resourced and that schools greatly need more counseling and mental health resources.
    • February 2019: In Texas: State of School Discipline, we feature the latest data from the Texas Education Agency and also examine the impact of exclusionary discipline on students with disabilities, students of color, and our state’s youngest students.
    • July 2018: Our report, Collateral Consequences, looked at data from the Texas Juvenile Justice Department for referrals to juvenile probation for “terroristic threat” or “exhibition, use, or threat of exhibition or use of firearms." The report revealed that students were being unnecessarily arrested and funneled into the juvenile justice system, and that schools were failing to distinguish between actual safety threats and ordinary child behavior. In 2019, with support from Texas Appleseed, the Texas Legislature is requiring school districts to form and receive training for threat assessment teams.
    • August 2016 (Data Update April 2017): Our Suspended Childhood report analyzed exclusionary discipline of Texas’ pre-K and elementary school students. Our advocacy on this issue led to statewide changes. Texas' pre-K through 2nd grade students can no longer receive an out-of-school suspension for minor behavior after legislation supported by Texas Appleseed passed in 2017.
    • December 2016: With data collected from Texas school districts, municipal courts, juvenile probation departments, the Texas Education Agency and student surveys, we published Dangerous Discipline with our partner, Texans Care for Children. The report showed that students in Texas schools are arrested, sent to adult criminal courts, referred to juvenile probation, and experience use of force incidents at alarming rates, often for relatively minor misbehaviors.
    • 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
    • 2018: Launched Make My School Safe with partners Disability Rights Texas and the Earl Carl Institute. The toolkit was designed to provide members of school communities and policymakers with answers to fundamental questions about school safety, law enforcement in schools, students’ rights, and the impacts of school safety strategies on students with disabilities. 
    • 2016: Launched Texas Discipline Lab, a website created to provide innovative, practical, and lasting solutions to systemic problems related to school discipline and the juvenile justice system.
    • 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.  
Fair Financial Services
  • Legislative gains
    • 2019: Successfully advocated to ensure state oversight of online consumer lending through an amendment to Sunset Bill HB 1442, which reauthorized the Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner (OCCC).
    • 2019: Helped lead efforts to ensure the passage of HB 2697, which expands the definition of identity theft to include debts incurred through coercion (coerced debt), creating a pathway to financial recovery for victims of financial abuse.
    • 2019: Advocated for passage of HB 996 that closes a loophole in Texas law to protect people against “zombie debts.” The new protections include stopping lawsuits when the statute of limitations has expired (typically debts more than four years old in Texas) and prohibiting a person’s payment for an old debt from re-starting the litigation clock.
    • 2019: Supported passage of HB 2524, which tightens a loophole in Texas law that allowed rent-to-own businesses to use criminal charges to collect on defaulted debts. These abuses by rent-to-own businesses led to hefty fines and jail time for Texans.
    • 2017: Helped lead efforts to pass SB 1911, which expands access to self-help resources in all state and county courts for Texans who don't have legal representation.
    • 2017: Worked with a group of stakeholders to support passage of HB 3921, creating clearer standards and accountability for financial institutions and securities brokers to identify and report financial abuse of vulnerable adults.
    • 2011: Advocated, as part of a broad coalition, for HB 2594 and HB 2592, which created basic licensing, data reporting standards and consumer disclosures for payday and auto title loan businesses in Texas. 
  • Payday & auto title lending reform
    • 2011-current: More than 10 million Texas residents now protected from abusive payday and auto title lending through strong laws in 45 Texas cities. Worked with cities, faith and community organizations to support passage of these local ordinances. A 2019 analysis showed that the ordinance has beneficial local impacts, including reducing all of the following: refinances, new loans, vehicle repossessions, and fees. 
    • 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.
  • Lower-cost consumer loan alternatives
      • 2016: Developed a resource for city governments to build on the important local payday and auto title loan ordinance work. This resource features case studies of successful efforts to expand access to low-cost, small-dollar loan options that enhance the financial wellbeing of communities. 
      • 2012: Published a report on more affordable small-dollar loan alternatives to payday and auto title loans ripe for expansion in Texas.
  • Preventing financial abuse and upholding consumer rights
    • 2019: Produced Abuse by Credit: The Problem of Coerced Debt in Texas, a first-of-its-kind study examining the growing problem of identity theft within abusive relationships. Following the report, the State of Texas passed HB 2697, which expands the definition of identity theft to include debts incurred through coercion.
    • 2018: Examined the auto insurance market in Texas and produced the report, Out of Alignment: Women & Discrimination in the Texas Auto Insurance Market. The report documents pricing discrimination in Texas based on gender and marital status, revealing that unmarried women and widows often pay the highest average prices for this legally mandated insurance product.
    • 2018: Published a toolkit, My Debt Collection Rights in Texas, to inform Texans of their rights in the debt collection process. The toolkit features videos, forms and interactive information to help Texans through all aspects of the debt collection process — from spotting scams and other deceptive practices to guidance to how to engage in the court process if they are sued.
    • 2017: Launched a comprehensive online and printed toolkit, with partner AARP Texas, consisting of five guides that are tailored to the needs of different fiduciary/supporter capacities who manage money or property for someone who is unable to do so themselves. Available in English and Spanish at
  • 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-current: Helped build a new and expanding 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.
  • 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.
Foster Care & 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.  
Youth Homelessness
  • Legislative gains
    • 2019: Advocated for passage of HB 811, which requires K-12 public schools to consider a student’s foster care or homelessness status in the case of disciplinary action.
    • 2019: Advocated for HB 692, which ends out-of-school suspension for students experiencing homelessness, barring narrow exceptions.
    • 2019: Worked to bring HB 123 to fruition, which now makes it easier for homeless children and those in foster care to obtain important ID documents, such as birth certificates and driver’s licenses, and waives accompanying fees.
  • Reports and research
    • November 2017: Published Young, Alone and Homeless in the Lone Star State, a policy report with partner Texas Network of Youth Services. The report was the most comprehensive study to date on the state of youth homelessness in Texas and the programs in place to address it.
  • Resources for youth experiencing homelessness and stakeholders
    • November 2018: Launched the We Do Exist campaign with partner LifeWorks. We Do Exist aims to raise awareness about youth experiencing homelessness in Texas and offer ways to get involved. is one component of the campaign featuring resources, statistics, news and events.
    • December 2016: Published the Texas Homeless Youth Handbook, in partnership with Baker & McKenzie and Weatherford. This online and print guide helps youth experiencing homelessness better understand their legal rights, responsibilities and resources. It covers education, employment, health, housing, parenting, and other major topics. Texas was the fourth state in the U.S. to have this particular resource. We are continuing to update the handbook to ensure it is accurate.