Local Research On Texas Pre-k Grants Provides Lessons for Lawmakers, Texans Care for Children, By Mary Jalonick and Adrianna Cuellar-Rojas

As Texas began its new HB 4 pre-k grant program in the 2016-2017 school year, the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium (TEGAC) sponsored a research project to explore local demand and provide a preliminary analysis to policymakers. In September 2016, our team here at Texans Care for Children published the first report, “Ensuring the Success of HB 4 and Texas Students: A Preliminary Analysis of the Texas High-Quality Pre-k Grant Program.” Our report found a high level of demand, with grants provided to 573 districts serving 86 percent of the state’s pre-k students, including school districts across the economic spectrum. The report noted that the relatively low level of per-student funding ($734, or about half of the $1,500 originally envisioned for the program) would make it difficult for districts to support all of the critical pre-k quality improvements high on their priority list. Between November 2016 and January 2017, additional reports were published on HB 4 implementation in the following regions by the following organizations:

The reports found strong local support for the pre-k grant program. Most participating school districts used the grants for teacher training, curriculum, instructional materials, technology, and parent engagement. A smaller number of districts used the grants to expand full-day pre-k options. Among the school districts contacted for this research, there was broad agreement that funding to boost pre-k quality needs to be more stable and predictable. As the Legislature considers next steps on HB 4, it should take into account these local experiences and recommendations, particularly the need for adequate and stable funding.