Texas public schools educate 5 million students.
Investment in Pre-K gives us a chance to close the achievement gap before it starts. Research shows that participation in Pre-K cuts the school readiness gap in half on entry into kindergarten.
Pre-K Provides Measurable Benefits for Students
A recent study by the University of Texas found Texas students in Pre-K performed better on 3rd grade reading and math assessments than students not attending Pre-K, with the greatest gains among economically disadvantaged and Limited English Proficient students who make up an increasing portion of the Texas population.
While the gains are most notable among economically disadvantaged and minority children, middle class children benefit as well and may have greater access problems because they are not eligible for government programs according to the National Education Policy Center.
Students who attend Pre-K fare better throughout their lives. Benefits include fewer students held back in school, fewer students in special education, higher high school graduation and college admission rates, and fewer students entering the criminal justice or welfare systems.
Funding Cuts Fell Heavily on Pre-K
State per-child funding for Pre-K has fallen so low that it is now lower in real dollars than it was in 2001-2002. Cuts during the last legislative session zeroed out funding for Pre-Kindergarten Early Start Grants that allow districts to offer full-day Pre-K, and cut funding for the School Readiness Certification System which evaluates the quality of Pre-K programs by more than half.
Here’s what the Texas legislature can do to keep public schools strong:
- Restore funding for Prekindergarten Early Start Grant that allows school districts to offer full-day Pre-K.
- Restore funding for the School Readiness Certification System, which measures quality Pre-K programs.
- Reward high-performing Pre-K programs with Formula Funding for full-day Pre-K for qualifying 4-year olds.
If a district has received a Pre-K Center of Excellence designation for their full-day Pre-K program under the School Readiness Certification System for two years in a row, reward the district with formula funding. Give these high-performing programs funds for voluntary, high-quality full-day Pre-K for all 4-year olds meeting current eligibility requirements.