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The State of Pre-K: Texas Can Do More

This month, CHILDREN AT RISK is excited to release “The State of Pre-K: Realities and Opportunities in Texas,” a report on the current state of public pre-kindergarten programs in Texas and policy recommendations for maximizing their return on investment.

By CHILDREN AT RISK

This month, CHILDREN AT RISK is excited to release “The State of Pre-K: Realities and Opportunities in Texas,” a report on the current state of public pre-kindergarten programs in Texas and policy recommendations for maximizing their return on investment. The goal of this study was to provide essential information for policymakers, school districts, and community organizations to make informed policy decisions about pre-kindergarten education for our state’s youngest learners. This study is a collaborative project between the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium, the Meadows Foundation and CHILDREN AT RISK, and is a follow-up to a previous CHILDREN AT RISK study commissioned by the Consortium on how $5.4 billion in cuts to public education impacted Texas schools, and in particular pre-k, after the 2011 Legislative Session.

The Pre-k study is an especially important contribution considering the lack of publicly available state data on pre-kindergarten programs. Texas enrolls 225,000 kids in pre-kindergarten –more than any other state in the country- and it is essential to track the characteristics and outcomes of these programs. The main components of the study included a statewide survey of all traditional school districts, in-depth case studies on expanded pre-kindergarten programs in select districts, and research on policies in Texas and other key states.

Several key findings came out of the information gathered, the details of which can be found in
the full report
:

  • Many school districts are already going above and beyond minimum state mandates to ensure that students receive pre-kindergarten education.
  • School districts want full-day pre-kindergarten, but adequate funding is a challenge.
  • School districts are investing in smaller class sizes and optimal staff-to-student ratios without a state mandate or state funding.

A lack of funding was found to be a large roadblock for children in Texas, as 73% of responding districts reported inadequate funding as a barrier to pre-kindergarten expansion. The Texas Legislature made historic cuts to public education budgets in 2011, including grant funds for pre-kindergarten.

During the last legislative session in 2013, the Legislature restored just $30 million of the more than $200 million that was cut from pre-kindergarten grant programs. As a result, many school districts are digging deep into general operating funds or cobbling together federal grants and other funding sources to continue offering these programs.

Research shows that high quality pre-kindergarten, which includes small classes and full-day programs, produces higher returns on taxpayer money. Pre-kindergarten not only prepares children to succeed in elementary school, but also contributes to success later in life. It is important for Texas to support the work done by our local school districts in funding high quality pre-kindergarten programs.

“The State of Pre-K: Realities and Opportunities in Texas” was funded by The Meadows Foundation in support of TEGAC initiatives. For the full report, please visit
www.childrenatrisk.org
.

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TEGAC Advocacy Partner: Pastors for Texas Children, A Unique Perspective on Pre-K

Pastors for Texas Children is privileged to join the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium in advancing Pre-Kindergarten public educational instruction in Texas and promoting legislation in the upcoming legislative session to ensure that comprehensive pre-K programs are made available to all the families of Texas.

By Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, Executive Director, Pastors for Texas Children

For the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium, TEGAC, August 2014

Pastors for Texas Children is privileged to join the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium in advancing Pre-Kindergarten public educational instruction in Texas and promoting legislation in the upcoming legislative session to ensure that comprehensive pre-K programs are made available to all the families of Texas.

From a theological and religious standpoint, education for all people is the basic will of God. Every faith tradition has understood education as central to humanity’s charge to be good, responsible stewards of creation. The Judeo-Christian heritage has always understood education to be central to its mission. It is necessary to fulfill God’s basic command expressed so memorably in first chapter of The Book of Genesis to “be fruitful and multiply, replenish the earth and subdue it.”

The colorful story continues in the second chapter of Genesis, quite specifically underscoring education as a God-given right and responsibility. After God places the human in a garden of plenty and commands him to eat, God then brings all the animals to the human to see what the human would name them. This naming impulse and process is precisely what constitutes education. It is a core component of human existence.

Furthermore, the one title that Jesus seemed to embrace throughout his mission was “Rabbi” which means “teacher.”

As such, ministers of the church have historically supported public education as a foundational institution of a representative democracy. A literate and educated electorate is essential to the rule of the people that advances God’s justice.

Public education is a key component of the common good and the social contract. It ensures the widespread distribution our economic wealth, and its institutions are at the center of our local economies.

We believe public education is a right– not a privilege. It should be accessible and available to all children. Public policy should support, not deplete, it. It is an inviolable public trust, and is explicitly mandated in the Texas Constitution.

This is why PTC advocates for the full and adequate funding of public education for all children regardless of race, economic status, religion, gender, orientation, or background.

This is why PTC affirms the holy calling of teaching as a noble vocation and stands for the restoration of teaching as the venerated profession it should be.

And this is why PTC stands solidly behind policy initiatives that extend pre-Kindergarten educational programs to all our children. Studies consistently show that the earlier a child is enrolled in formal educational instruction, the higher the academic performance and achievement will be throughout the child’s life.

When we invest in public education, we are investing in the future of 5 million Texas schoolchildren. That basic investment is the key to a child’s future economic mobility, the financial stability of Texas families, and the state’s long-term economic prosperity. Slightly more than 60 percent (over 3 million of our 5 million Texas public school students) are now identified as “economically disadvantaged.” Because family income plays a pivotal role in educational success, the increase in low-income Texas students underscores the importance of providing quality education at an earlier age. Pastors are in a good position to know the direct correlation between education achievement and economic viability.

Therefore, PTC will host meetings throughout the state to connect pastors, faith-leaders and education leaders around Pre-K and general public education issues. We will provide regular news and updates to members regarding emerging opportunities to promote Pre-K programs throughout the state. And we will host regular educational meetings involving key state legislators, pastors, church leaders, educators and other stakeholders to promote and advance Pre-K and general public education.

Education is a cornerstone of God’s justice and provision for all people. It should be provided for the “least of these”—our earlier age children—in every neighborhood and community throughout our great state.