After hearing testimony from stakeholders on December 1, 2015, the Texas Education Agency has released the Commissioner’s proposed rules on what should be included in the criteria to qualify for the High Quality Pre-K Grant Program (HB 4).
Under the proposed rules, a high quality program is defined in terms of curriculum, teacher training, and family engagement. While the rules provide some clarification about what constitutes a high quality Pre-K program, they do not address several critical factors such as classroom sizes, student-teacher ratios, or the need for a full-day program.
An overcrowded classroom impacts a teacher’s ability to be effective and give students individualized attention. Increased teacher qualification requirements and improved curriculum alone are insufficient when student- teacher ratios are unacceptably high. The rules reflect the status quo of a half-day program, but expanding to full day of instruction as part of a high quality program would allow more time for constructive interactions between the teacher and students.
Rather than establishing a set grant amount, the proposed rules determine grant amounts based on available funds, eligible grant applicants, and the number of qualified students. With these variables, grant amounts can change every year and it’s hard for districts to plan and make investments. If the grants were a set amount, it’s possible the grants would serve fewer kids, but the districts would have confidence in knowing the amount of the grant from year to year.
The Texas Education Agency will take public comment on the proposed rules until March 7, 2016.