Raise Your Hand Texas believes all children, regardless of family income, deserve a fair shot at success in school and in life. High-quality, full-day pre-k gives them that opportunity.

2017 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITY

Maintain funding for high-quality Pre-K to support systematic improvements to programs statewide

The High-Quality Prekindergarten Grant Program should be funded at a two-year level of $236 million to continue the current level of service over the next biennium. TEA allocated $118 million in grant funding in 2016 to districts meeting state quality standards. A $236 million allocation will allow grant recipients to maintain the high-quality elements they implemented as a result of the single-year grant distribution in future years. Rather than approving a pre-k grant months before the school-year begins, awarding pre-k funding through the school finance formulas would provide districts with the certainty they need to plan and sustain high-quality programs. 

To produce academic and social/emotional outcomes that last, funding for high-quality pre-k in the long-term should be reliable and predictable. By distributing any additional funding for pre-k through the Foundation School Program funding formulas (TEC Chapter 42), districts and communities can make long-term investments and systematic improvements to increase the effectiveness of pre-k programs. One such improvement that is critical to long-term student success is ensuring a full-day program for all eligible 4-year-old students, who have the most to gain from additional exposure to meaningful teacher-student interactions in preparation for a successful kindergarten year.

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PRE-K IN TEXAS

Texas currently funds a half-day (3-hour) public school pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds who are:

  • Economically Disadvantaged
  • English Language Learners (ELL)
  • Children of Military
  • In Foster Care
  • Homeless

Research shows these students, who have the most to gain, receive the greatest benefit in terms of early learning from enrollment in a full-day, educationally focused pre-k program. High-quality pre-k can close early learning gaps and give each child an equal opportunity to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

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Texas currently enrolls roughly 230,000 students in public school pre-k. While Texas is one of the largest and most accessed public pre-k programs in the country, it ranks 30th in state pre-k spending nationally and meets only minimal quality standards as defined by national early childhood education experts.

STATE PRE-K POLICY AND HB 4 (2015)

While some districts offer full-day pre-k programs, funding them out of local district dollars, Texas has funded half-day programs for eligible pre-k students since 1984. Until the 84th Legislative Session, the state had not prioritized strengthening the quality of programs with legislation or significant and sustained funding.

The state previously funded an initiative to supplement district pre-k quality called the Early Start Grant. The grant was funded at $200 million per biennium until it was completely eliminated during the devastating $5.4 billion education budget cuts of 2011.

Bolstered by support from Gov. Greg Abbott, the 84th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 4 in 2015. HB 4 provides $130 million/biennium in grant funding for school districts to improve the quality of their pre-k programs for eligible four-year-old students, beginning with the 2016-17 school year.

While HB 4 represents a good first step toward improving quality in our pre-k classrooms, and replenishes more than half of the previous state pre-k grant, Raise Your Hand Texas believes state pre-k programs must go further, by providing full-day (at least 6-hour) programs in an environment where meaningful teacher-student interactions are possible (See our “Elements of High Quality” Pre-K HB 4 scorecard, including areas where state pre-k policy is still lacking.)

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RESEARCH REPORT

Pre-Kindergarten for the Modern Age:

A Scalable, Affordable, High-Quality Plan for Texas

Raise Your Hand will continue to pursue credible research and promote further investments in Texas pre-k to provide all eligible 4-year-olds access to a full-day, high-quality program.

The achievement gains and social and emotional benefits experienced by students in Oklahoma and other states have shown that comprehensive pre-k reforms are possible only if Texas gives pre-k the attention and investment it deserves.