Funding full-day prekindergarten throughout Texas

ROBYN H. JIMENEZ | 4/17/2017, 3:33 a.m.
Many education specialists have stated that the best start to a good education is an early start, namely a high-quality, ...
Children who attend full-day prekindergarten are more academically successful because they are more likely to stay in school, graduate and go on to college. Stock photo

Johnson pointed out that the mayor’s bill was funded through a grant, while the HB 2282 would be funded by the Foundation School Program.

“To highlight why my bill is different from what the governor proposed last session and what he’s asking for this session; the main difference is that the governor wants to fund pre-K as a grant, as a special program that every two years we have to come back to Austin and reauthorize,” he explained. “I want to fund pre-K through the school funding fund that we fund kindergarten through 12th grade. And if you think about it, you say, ‘What does that mean?’ Well, think about this. You know, you never read a headline that says the Legislature is contemplating whether or not it’s going to fully fund the fifth grade this year. You never hear that there’s a certain grade that we may not pay for. That’s because it doesn’t work like that. For K-12, there’s a formula and it just says, however many of these kids show up on X days … the state just sends you a check for their share of how much we’re suppose to pay per child. It’s not a function of every two years, and when the Legislature meets, we have to determine if we’re going to do it or not. That’s the difference in being in the formula and being a grant.”

He explained that a grant has a term of two years and has to be re-examined and determined every two years.

“Right now, the House and the Senate have both put in their initial budget that they are not going to put any money in the governor’s pre-K program any more. They’ve got zeros right now in his grant program. And that’s the problem with doing it as a grant in the first place,” Johnson said. “I told the governor in a one-on-one sit down meeting in his office, we need to fund pre-K the way we fund K-12. Pre-K needs to be no different than the seventh grade or the eighth grade. However many kids show up on Day One for pre-K or by that third day in September, however many kids are there, the state needs to send the money. And it shouldn’t be subject to a grant every two years being appropriated by the Legislature, because one day the Legislature [isn’t] going to. And sure enough, it didn’t even take one session. We came back this session and the House and the Senate decided not to put any money in it. So there goes the pre-K money.”

Moreover, under the current policy, pre-K programs in Texas have consistently received low marks from The National Institute for Early Education Research.

HB 2282 had more quality measure built into it than the mayor’s bill, according to Johnson.

“We require lower student/teacher ratios so the students get more attention. We require more in the way of training for teachers. We take everything to the level of national best practices. Our bill is much more rigorous than what’s required for a district to qualify for the money. Its higher quality, its full day and its funded through the formula – that’s the key takeaway about our bill,” he said.