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.)