Saturday, March 14, 2015

Big Week for Pre-K in the Texas House

Chandra Villanueva
Pre-Kindergarten in Texas could get a big boost this legislative session, and it’s encouraging that there are several legislative proposals on the table. The Center for Public Policy Priorities just released a new report with recommendations for ways Texas can use Pre-K to close the opportunity gap for Texas kids.

Governor Abbott has declared Pre-K an emergency item that the Legislature must focus on this session. On March 10 the House Public Education Committee will hear a variety of bills aimed at improving the current Pre-K program.

Research shows that Pre-K works. Studies of Texas’ modest half-day Pre-K program shows that participation is tied to increased math and reading test scores and reductions in needing special education services in later grades. Texas’ children could make even greater strides if Pre-K expanded to a full-day program.

We know that Pre-K is a sound investment. A recent Texas-specific study found that for every dollar invested in Pre-K the state saves $3.50 through the reduced need for remedial or special education, lower crime rates, and decreases in participation in public programs. Full-day, quality Pre-K helps lower-income kids start school ready to learn and pays huge dividends.

Last week State Representative Joe Deshotel, Samsung Austin Semiconductor representative Catherine Morse, University of Texas associate professor Liz Gershoff and CPPP Executive Director Ann Beeson held an engaging panel discussion about Pre-K as part of the State of Texas Children 2015 report release. View video of that panel discussion here.

To build on the positive gains being made by the current Pre-K program, CPPP recommends that the Legislature:
  • Establish Pre-K as a full-day program for currently eligible students.
  • Improve quality standards such as class size limits, student-teacher ratios, and health screenings.
  • Establish an office of early learning to encourage and oversee collaborations between Pre-K, Head Start, child care providers, and state agencies.
Read our new Pre-K report, and let’s urge lawmakers to invest in Pre-K to ensure Texas kids are ready to learn from day one.

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