For several sessions, the push in the Texas Legislature to fund full-day pre-K in public schools has failed. State lawmakers have yet to agree on a way to fund a full-day pre-K program, but that could change this session. The full Texas House will take up its school finance measure this week, which includes a $750 million provision to fund full-day pre-K.
Eva-Marie Ayala is an education reporter for The Dallas Morning News, and says currently, the state funds half-day pre-K for students who qualify, based on special education needs, low family income or a need to learn English. The House plan would create a full-day program for those who already qualify, as well as for some additional students.
“Teachers say that if you have just half-day, a lot of it is teaching students to stand in line, teaching them how to sit still,” Ayala says. “By the time you start really get into reading or even elementary math lessons, the day’s already gone by.”
Pre-K funding is more likely this session, as lawmakers seem finally ready to address the state’s long-standing school finance issues, and as evidence of the importance of pre-K education mounts.
“If you spend more money on pre-K, that can do more to catch kids up than any other intervention later in life, according to research,” Ayala says.
Debates over pre-K funding center on whether the money would come from one-time grants, as it has in the past, or whether it would be part of the legislature’s biennial spending on education.
Some advocates support universal pre-K, which would give the opportunity to all children, regardless of income, special needs or language. Ayala says that would be “incredibly expensive,” so lawmakers are focusing on those most in need.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.