The standards for early child education in Texas are startling. Although empirical evidence overwhelmingly confirms the benefits of early education, Texas falls far behind when it comes to providing quality learning opportunities for Texas children to succeed. Our Early Education Policy Associate, Andrea Brauer, recently described three ways Texas can positively impact the quality of Early Childhood Education:
- Establish an Office of Early Learning at the Texas Education Agency (TEA)
- Strengthen Texas Pre-K
- Reduce Child-to-Caregiver Ratios in Child Care girl
Establish an Office of Early Learning at TEA
Texas is one of the most populous states in the country, yet it lacks the resources needed to oversee its early education programs. There are several agencies that administer and fund these programs. No entity, however, is in charge of bringing these coalitions and efforts together.
So who is accountable for ensuring Texas children are ready for kindergarten?
Right now, there is only one TEA staff member focused on early education for the entire state of Texas. If the state established an Office of Early Learning, TEA could provide better management of pre-K funding, and more guidance for struggling districts.
Strengthen Texas Pre-K
Did you know Texas has the largest state-funded Pre-K program in the country?
Astonishingly, the National Institute for Early Education Research also indicates we have the lowest quality standards in the nation. Knowing the first 5 years of a child’s life are the most critical for brain development, Texas should strive for a better return on investment and provide a high quality pre-K program. Early education has a proven, strong correlation to future success. Texas should use its pre-K dollars to ensure Texas children are provided with the tools for future achievement and success. The state needs to invest in and strengthen pre-K programs.
In order for Texas to strengthen the current program, our policy recommendations include:
- Create an Office of Early Learning at TEA, as mentioned above.
- Put higher quality standards in place - establish a class size cap, no larger than 20. Some districts have classes as high as 30 students to one teacher, which limits quality learning.
- Provide better access - inform families about the availability of public school Pre-K, build partnerships with child care centers and Head Start, and share best practices on tuition-based programs.
- Collect more data - create a longitudinal data system to show which programs are working, and which ones need improvement, to strengthen classrooms and ensure children are kindergarten-ready.
Reduce Child-to-Caregiver Ratios in Child Care
The Child Care Licensing Division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) determined the state’s current child care standards, specifically ratios and group sizes, do not adequately protect children in some age ranges. Addressing child care ratios is a key element to ensuring Texas children are provided a safe learning environment.
DFPS came to this conclusion in 2010, but ratio and group size standards in child care settings still remain the same. Currently, Texas allows one teacher to monitor eleven 2-year-olds – twice the limit recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
We believe Texas’ littlest learners deserve a safe, high-quality learning environment. It’s time to improve our child-to-caregiver ratios.