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Texas Lawmakers Could Trim Funding for Pre-K, Despite New Research

Advocates hope to see strong support from Governor Greg Abbot soon. He made early education a top priority last session.

In Austin, there could be a new battle over funding for the state’s youngest learners.

Last session, lawmakers invested more in high quality pre-K with $118 million in grant money to school districts. That’s on top of the funding for half-day pre-K Texas pays for all school districts.

But the proposed budgets from the Texas House and Senate would could cut that funding even as new research backs the value of pre-K.

That research from three separate groups  — Children at Risk, the Commit! Partnership in Dallas and the E3 Alliance — looked at what pre-K meant for Texas kids.

“I think the key finding of all three studies is that pre-K really works.” said Bob Sanborn, president and CEO of the advocacy group Children at Risk.

“And for low-income kids, it doesn’t just work a little bit, it works a lot.” 

In that recent study, they followed 40,000 children from pre-K to third grade. Sanborn said that the findings back up the value of high-quality pre-K, which they consider full-day and with smaller class sizes.

“Low-income kids who normally without pre-K were just barely passing. But when they had high quality pre-K, they’re now testing in third-grade at sort of college-prep trajectory levels,” Sanborn explained.

So far the Senate’s budget would cut it by over 30 percent a year. The House would pay for the current funding for one more year – and then zero it out completely.

State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, told the Education Commissioner Mike Morath, who also requested keeping the same pre-K grant budget, that the numbers were just a start.

“I”m going to keep saying that,” added Nelson, who chairs the senate finance committee.

Stephanie Rubin with Texans Care for Children also asked senators to reconsider.

“It would be bad news for Texas kids and a huge step back for the new pre-K grant program,” she said.

Advocates hope to see strong support from Governor Greg Abbot soon. He made early education a top priority last session, spurring lawmakers to pass the early pre-K grants.

 

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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