State opts to fund all-day Pre-K

Prior to sine die in late May, Texas legislators agreed to fund all-day pre-kindergarten for qualifying children, all part of an effort to improve the education and availability of childcare across the state.

House Bill (HB) 3, authored by Dan Huberty (R-Humble), also known as the school finance reform bill, includes $6.5 billion in public education improvements and teacher pay, along with $5.1 billion aimed at lowering school taxes, according to a Texas Tribune report. Part of HB3 also allows funding for all-day Pre-K for 4-year-olds who qualify. The bill was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott May 29.

Hays CISD will be able to offer qualifying families all-day Pre-K education and care starting in August.  HCISD Superintendent Eric Wright supported the bill from its conception and said he is ready and willing to hire more teachers and staff to accommodate the program.

HCISD has offered half-day pre-k for years, which was fully funded by the state. Students could attend the morning or afternoon session with breakfast and lunch provided.

“We will have more parents interested in the program now that they can bring their student in during the morning and they can stay there the full-day while the parents are working,” Wright said. “The qualifications have not changed, but interest in the program will, so we’ll be preparing for that growth.”

The district is authorized to have 22 students for every two teachers in Pre-K. Patty Santoyo, HCISD director of early-childhood and extended-day programs, said the district has approximately 500 students enrolled in Pre-K and expects another 250 students by this August.

“With more time in class, we will be able to extend our content learning,” Santoyo said. “We condense what we teach right now, but with the students there for longer, we can better prepare them for kindergarten and improve their reading, writing, math and social skills.”

According to district leaders, all-day Pre-K will have lasting effects on the district’s performance all around. Experts and researchers say that students who begin learning math, science and language skills before entering kindergarten, do better academically and socially later in their educational careers.

“Many of these kids come to us with difficulty speaking and some with difficulty learning English,” Santoyo said. “Getting them started on learning earlier and for longer will help them in the future.”

Tim Savoy, HCISD chief communications officer, said the district is looking forward to being able to care for and educate more children; however, Savoy said there is still more the district can do.

“We aren’t to the point of offering a tuition-based program, yet,” Savoy said. “We would like to explore that option in the future to serve students who don’t fall under the current qualifications.”

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