When debating school finance, don’t leave out Pre-K

Chandra Kring Villanueva

One of the most effective ways we can help kids compete and succeed in life is to make sure they are ready to start Kindergarten. Research has shown positive results from the state-supported Pre-K program, yet Texas regularly receives low marks for quality in the National Institute for Early Education Research’s (NIEER) annual State of Pre-K Report.

In 2011, the Pre-Kindergarten Early Start Grant Program was eliminated as part of larger budget cuts to public education. This program provided $208 million every two years to school districts to improve the quality of their Pre-K programs. Following these cuts, several school districts reduced their Pre-K programs from full-day to half-day.

Governor Abbott made Pre-K funding an emergency item during our last Legislative session, and the result was a $118 million biennial grant program similar to the program that was eliminated in 2011, but with $90 million less in funds available to school districts. While this new funding is an important first step to improving quality, the $367 per student grant amounts fall short of what districts need to implement and sustain quality improvements.

Read our new policy brief Texas Pre-K: Looking Ahead to the 2017 Legislative Session for an overview of how Pre-K is funded and our recommendations for improving the state’s Pre-K program. For more information on why Pre-K matters, check out our policy brief, “Closing the Opportunity Gap“.

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