Education News

Texas Loses Bid For Federal Pre-K Grant

One education advocate believes a proposed pre-kindergarten voucher system might have dinged Texas’ application.

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preKers sitting on the floor
Preschoolers sitting on the floor

Texas hoped to receive up to $120 million from the federal government to expand pre-kindergarten.

But Texas was not on the list of winners announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Education.

The money from the Obama Administration’s Preschool for All initiative will go to eighteen other states, including Arizona, Illinois and New York.

“We missed out on a stimulus opportunity for a number of districts to get ahead of the game with several millions of dollars focused on quality pre-K. So not a good day,” said David Anthony, CEO of Raise Your Hand Texas, an advocacy group.

State leaders have identified early education as a top priority, including Texas Governor-elect Greg Abbott. Earlier this week he announced education was at the top of his legislative agenda.

“That means beginning with an improved pre-K four program. We want every child across the state to get off to a good start,” Abbott said.

However, federal administrators identified several “weaknesses” in Texas’ application, such as how it would implement high-quality programs.

Anthony believes one particular component in the state’s application might have hurt its chances: a voucher system for eligible parents to pay for private pre-K with public money.

“It really wasn’t one of those things that we were trying to focus on. We’re trying to focus on how do we provide high-quality, full-day pre-kindergarten to all the students of Texas and not just a voucher component to private day care,” he said.

Anthony, who is the former superintendent of Cy-Fair, cited the public school system as the best place to improve early education.

Education Commissioner Michael Williams called the federal decision “disappointing” in a statement, but added it doesn’t take away from the “state’s belief in the value of high quality prekindergarten programs.”

“At the Texas Education Agency, we look forward to working with Governor-elect Abbott and members of the Texas Legislature on state-level initiatives regarding this important issue,” Williams said.

 

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