Pre-Kindergarten has already proven to be a hot issue this legislative session, and this week Representatives Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) and Marsha Farney (R-Georgetown) released a noteworthy Pre-K reform proposal. The plan acknowledges the importance of Pre-K for economically disadvantaged students but fails to offer a solution for all eligible students in all districts.
Pre-K is the smartest and most cost-effective place to invest in education, and research shows that economically disadvantaged students who attend high-quality Pre-K programs make the greatest educational gains. The incentive program proposed by Johnson and Farney requires school districts to provide results before they can receive funding, creating a system in which only students in those districts benefit from expanded Pre-K.
Implementing a full-day program of the type proposed requires investments, and without funding it’s not clear how districts can prove compliance before becoming eligible for the incentive payments. If a district is able to implement some, but not all, of the quality requirements could they stand to lose all of their incentive funding?
Texas’ goal should be to provide a high-quality early education to all eligible students, not just a select few. Preparing our youngest now is proven to help them compete and succeed down the road. There’s nothing to prevent the legislature from investing in a full-day program requiring the quality improvements. The state should support quality improvement for all districts rather than giving incentives only to those districts that can already comply.