Texas Senate talks more Pre-K help for qualifying students

Qualifying students could have more time in their Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) classes due to new legislation filed during the 86th legislative session.

The Public Education Committee received a draft of House Bill (HB) 189 in February which, if passed, would require all Texas school districts to provide all-day Pre-K for students who qualify under the current criteria.

Hays CISD currently provides half-day Pre-K Monday through Friday to a few hundred students who meet several criterion. That includes students who are low-income, those who are English language learners or are dependents of active-duty military or local first-responders.

The half-day service is funded by the state. District officials are hoping funding for the extended version would also come from the state.

While in the district’s care, students are educated on beginning reading, writing and math skills; students are also fed and watched over and are assisted in comprehending the English language where needed.

Currently, teachers and teaching aides at Kyle Elementary watch 20 children in the morning and another 20 in the afternoon. Should this bill pass, parents could utilize the service for the full day.

Kyle Elementary staff welcome the idea as long as more staff is provided to watch the children in the two portables at the campus.

Hays CISD Superintendent Eric Wright said he fully supports the bill and intends to hire more staff, should the bill become law.

“Hays CISD would benefit from all-day Pre-K, as would the rest of the community,” Wright said. “Studies show that kids who receive the educational help they need before the third grade, do better in school and in life.”

Wright said the bill would cost taxpayers no matter what.

“You can pay to put the kids in school and give them a chance,” Wright said. “Or you can pay your tax dollars to help them later in life in various ways.”

Studies show that students who fall behind in reading and writing before the third grade suffer in school as they progress due to a lack of ability to understand course work. These students are more likely to drop out.

Hays CISD Chief Communication Officer Tom Savoy said the bill is likely to pass, but he hopes to see additional exceptions made.

“It would be beneficial that we could provide Pre-K on a tuition-funded basis to those who make above the income requirements but still want to benefit from putting their child in Pre-K,” Savoy said.

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