Full-Day Pre-K Gets a Boost from Activists at Capitol

Efforts to secure increased state funding for full-day pre-K were under way at the capitol Monday. Senators at a day-long budget meeting heard the call for pre-K expansion in testimony from Texas AFT, other education organizations, parents, and community allies. Meanwhile, a whole passel of pre-K advocates, including a sizable number of Texas AFT members from affiliates like Education Austin, visited individual Senate and House members to make the case for full-day pre-K.

Legislative interest in this cost-effective investment in early education is high, judging by the number and scope of bills filed to expand pre-K thus far in the 2015 session. For instance, SB 23 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, Democrat of Laredo, would expand from half-day to full-day, state-funded pre-K for all four-year-olds. Three other bills also would provide universal pre-K access by 2019 (HB 124 by Democratic Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio, HB 186 by Democratic Rep. Senfronia  Thompson  of Houston, and SB 72 by Sen. Rodney Ellis, Democrat of Houston). HB 391 by Rep. Sergio Munoz, Democrat of Mission, would provide full-day pre-K for all the categories of students currently eligible for state-funded half-day pre-K, as would HB 424 by Rep. Harold Dutton, Democrat of Houston. HB 1100 by Rep. Eric Johnson, Democrat of Dallas, and Rep. Marsha Farney, Republican of Georgetown, would provide incentive funding for school districts to provide full-day pre-K if the districts’ programs meet specified quality standards.

Related bills also would address pre-K quality. SB 73 by Sen. Ellis would impose a class-size limit of 18-to-1 for pre-K. HB 173 by Rep. Carol Alvarado, Democrat of Houston, would require districts to report class size, the ratio of instructional staff to students, and assessments administered in pre-K. HB 296 by Rep. Gene Wu, also a Houston Democrat, would set a class-size cap of 22 and require at least one teacher or instructional aide per 11 students, among other quality criteria. HB 588 by Ana Hernandez, Democrat of Houston, would prohibit developmentally inappropriate testing in kindergarten as well as pre-K.

Gov. Greg Abbott also has voiced support for increased pre-K funding, though not necessarily for full-day pre-K and not on the large scale required to reach all students who could benefit from it. As Texas AFT noted in Senate testimony yesterday, the state as of now is still investing $170 million less in full-day pre-K per biennium than it did before the harsh cuts of 2011. But a good action campaign could yield significant gains in funding, in the program’s reach to a wider pool of students, in full-day versus half-day offerings, and in quality assurance for pre-K programs.  And Monday’s efforts by pre-K expansion advocates helped advance the cause.

Tags: ,