Education News

Early Education Coalition Releases 10-Year Plan, $700 Million Cost

Retired U.S. General Colin Powell helped kick off their ambitious education plan.

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Former Secretary of State and U.S. General Colin Powell gives a personal case for quality early childhood education. He tells leaders at the kick-off of the coalition Early Matters how “aunts” in his Bronx neighborhood helped care for him while his immigrant parents worked in the garment district. Photo courtesy of Early Matters.

 

On Friday, former Secretary of State Colin Powell made the case for early childhood education.

He didn’t speak as a four star general. He spoke as the child of immigrant parents, a kid who grew up in the Bronx and who was cared for by lots of “aunts” in the neighborhood.

Powell admits he had mediocre grades at the City College of New York.

He tells the story to hundreds of Houston business leaders, educators and politicians.

“So they took my ROTC grades, which were straight A’s, and they rolled them into my grade point average on my academic side. And they brought me up to 2.0 and said, ‘Get him out of here!’ Now I’m considered one of the greatest sons that the City College of New York has ever had.”

A coalition in Houston wants to give more children a better start. It’s called Early Matters.

“But what you do with life and where you end up in life begins with what you learned early in life. What kind of start did you get?”

Powell spoke at the kick-off of their plan for the next 10 years.

Scott McClelland
Scott McClelland, president of H-E-B’s Houston division, chairs the education advisory committee for the Greater Houston Partnership. He says early childhood education is going to be the top priority for the prominent business group in the next session of the Texas Legislature. Photo courtesy of Early Matters.

When Powell retells this story to young people, he reminds them it’s not where you start in life but what you do with life.

Scott McClelland is president of the grocery chain H-E-B in Houston. He’s also with the Greater Houston Partnership.

“This will be the number one initiative for the Greater Houston Partnership, or Houston’s chamber of commerce, in Austin to lobby for this year. So we’re saying we need to get something happening this year.”

McClelland says small kids can’t vote, so adults have to advocate for them. This next legislative session, he says the coalition will lobby both Republican and Democrat state lawmakers in Austin.

That’s where the price tag for their pre-K plan comes in.

“To expand pre-K to all kids who currently qualify which would be low-income, English as a second language, children of active duty military, etc. is seven hundred million dollars.”

McClelland says that could be one lump sum or rolled out over several years.

He says the plan’s first step is to improve the quality of pre-K.

“You don’t want to expand it and not have a quality product. So, quality would be a great curriculum, making sure we have great teachers doing it, going from half day to full day.”

Currently, Texas only pays for half day pre-kindergarten for at risk four year olds. There are no limits on those class sizes. And child-care providers don’t have to have a college degree.

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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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