HB 4 and High Quality Pre-K

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We believe helping kids start school ready to learn is one of the best ways to ensure all Texans have the chance to compete and succeed in life.

While passage of HB 4 last session was a step in the right direction, it did not go far enough in terms of improving Pre-K quality and lacks the funding needed for sustained improvement.

The length of the Pre-K school day and staff-to-student ratios are important elements of a high quality Pre-k program that are not prioritized in HB 4. A highly trained teacher with the best curriculum will still struggle to be effective if the classroom is overcrowded or if there is not enough time to have meaningful interactions with the students.

HB 4 caps grant amounts at $1,500 per student per year. However, due to the large number of districts that qualified for funding, the actual grant amounts were only $367 per student per year, or $735 for the biennium. It’s been reported that over 20 districts have turned down this funding because it will not cover the cost of the required quality improvements.

To address these concerns we recommend moving away from grant programs, that pick winner and losers, and instead fund full-day Pre-K for currently eligible students through the school funding formulas while requiring a heightened level of quality for all programs.

Chandra Villanueva joined the Center for Public Policy Priorities in 2010 and focuses on school finance and education policy ranging from early education to higher education access and success. Prior to joining the Center, Chandra was the manager of Advocacy and Public Policy with the Women’s Prison Association (WPA) in New York City. At WPA, she educated formerly incarcerated women on the legislative process and researched options for pregnant women in the criminal justice system. Chandra has also served as a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow with the Congressional Hunger Center with placements in Tucson, Arizona and Washington, DC. Chandra earned a Master of Public Administration from New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and a Bachelor of Arts from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

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