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Groups Push Texas Legislature to Fund Full-Day Pre-K

Children’s advocates say all-day pre-kindergarten programs give Texas children a significant advantage when they begin school. (Children's Defense Fund-Texas)
Children’s advocates say all-day pre-kindergarten programs give Texas children a significant advantage when they begin school. (Children's Defense Fund-Texas)
January 13, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas – Children's advocates are aiming to convince the Texas Legislature to fund all-day pre-kindergarten classes in the 2018-2019 budget and beyond.

The Children's Defense Fund-Texas and others hold a roundtable discussion in Austin Friday, to share reasons to permanently fund what is now a temporary, grant-based program.

Patrick Bresette, the fund's executive director, says expanding pre-K will bring major benefits to some of the state's neediest children.

"When you enter a session with some concerns about the overall revenue available, there are competing priorities,” he states. “But it's hard to argue that putting some money at the front end of these early childhood programs shouldn't be one of the highest priorities. The return on investment, the return on human capital and development, are just enormous."

House Bill 4, which created the program, was a top priority of Gov. Greg Abbott in the 2015 session, but lawmakers only approved funding for one school year out of the two-year biennium.

Bresette says the goal this time around is legislative approval of the entire $236 million requested to fund both years of the 2017-18 state budget.

He says research shows that pre-K classes are having the most impact on children in high poverty districts, such as those in inner cities and the Rio Grande Valley.

"Particularly in the areas of the state with a significant number of low-income families, and those who are English language learners, we know two things: Pre-K can be one of the most important tools to getting those kids jump-started, and that we're only meeting a fraction of the demand," he stresses.

Bresette adds that school districts say they need pre-K funding to be both reliable and sustained as part of the state's overall education budget, in order to meet families' needs.

"The districts are really looking for a more stable source of funding, as opposed to year-by-year,” he states. “I think that if we were to step up and really put the funding that was there to provide a full-day pre-K, you would see an enormous number of families taking advantage of that program."

The Children's Defense Fund is partnering with Texans Care for Children and the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium in backing the Pre-K program.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - TX