Austin American-Statesman - February 4, 2016
by Julie Chang
Texas school districts will be required to hire teachers with multiple credentials and improve family engagement to qualify for prekindergarten grants from $118 million in newly available state money.
The Texas Education Agency has released proposed rules, effective as early as March 7, that school districts must follow to qualify for the grants promised in House Bill 4, one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature laws passed in the last legislative session to boost prekindergarten quality across the state.
"A smart element of HB 4 is required new data collection, which is critical for assessing where we need to focus our next steps to boost pre-K quality,” said Stephanie Rubin, CEO of the advocacy group Texans Care for Children.
Although the proposed requirements of the grants weren’t a complete surprise to pre-K advocates, some had hoped that lowering the student-to-teacher ratio to the nationally recommended 11-to-1 would have been required, instead of suggested. Currently, the state has no class-size requirement for prekindergarten, although there is a cap for kindergarten through fourth-grade classes.
"Overall these rules reflect the bare minimum required by HB 4 while providing some clarification,” said Chandra Villanueva with the liberal Austin think tank Center for Public Policy Priorities. "You can have the most qualified teacher with the best curriculum around, but if there are too many students in the classroom the teacher will be unable to give each student the time and attention they need.”
Rubin also echoed concerns about the lack of class-size enforcement.