New Report Shows Solid Start to Pre-k Grant Program but More Work To Do

For Immediate Release
CONTACT:  Peter Clark, 512-417-9262

AUSTIN – Today Texans Care for Children released a new report on the Texas high-quality pre-k grant program established by HB 4, providing a new analysis of school district participation in the grant program and policy recommendations. Established by the Legislature and Governor Greg Abbott last year, the new pre-k grant program is providing participating school districts with grants for the 2016-2017 school year to improve pre-k effectiveness for currently eligible children.

“The new pre-k grant program is off to a solid start,” said Stephanie Rubin, CEO of Texans Care for Children, a multi-issue children’s policy organization. “However, state leaders have more work to do to ensure that HB 4 is successful and that Texas pre-k is effective in preparing children to succeed in school and beyond.”

The report, “Ensuring the Success of HB 4 & Texas Students: A Preliminary Analysis of the Texas High-Quality Pre-k Grant Program,” was produced with the support of the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium (TEGAC). In collaboration with Texans Care for Children and TEGAC, six non-profit, non-partisan groups working in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, the Rio Grande Valley, and Waco will conduct more locally-focused assessments of HB 4 implementation and community pre-k priorities for publication prior to the 2017 legislative session.
Key findings highlighted in the statewide report include: 

  1. There is high demand for HB 4 funding. The districts that received HB 4 grants educated 189,810 pre-k students during the 2015-2016 school year, representing 86 percent of the state’s pre-k enrollment. 
  2. HB 4 grants are serving pre-k students in school districts across the economic spectrum. Eighty-three percent of pre-k students in lower poverty districts (those in which fewer than 40 percent of students are economically disadvantaged) will benefit from the grants compared to 87 percent of those in higher poverty districts (those in which more than 60 percent of students are economically disadvantaged). Nonetheless, total HB 4 funding will be more concentrated in higher poverty districts because significantly more pre-k students are in higher poverty districts (68 percent) compared to lower poverty districts (9 percent). 
  3. School districts with more than 100 pre-k students are much more likely to participate in HB 4 compared to smaller districts. Ninety-one percent of pre-k students in districts with a pre-k enrollment above 100 students will benefit from the HB 4 grants compared to just 50 percent of those in the smaller independent school districts and charter districts. 
  4. The relatively low level of per-student funding provided to districts through HB 4 may limit the effectiveness of the grant program. The two tranches of HB 4 funding provided to school districts to use during the 2016-2017 school year totaled $734 per student, approximately half of the amount originally envisioned in the Governor’s proposal.  Moreover, the HB 4 appropriation of $118 million is lower than the $208 million appropriation for the state’s previous Early Start pre-k grant program, which the Legislature eliminated in 2011. 
  5. HB 4 application rates were lower in certain regions of the state, even when accounting for the size of school districts. Among school districts with more than 100 pre-k students, only fifty-one percent of districts in Education Service Center (ESC) Region 11 (Fort Worth) applied while a mere 15 percent of those in Region 16 (Amarillo) applied, falling short of application rates for districts with more than 100 pre-k students in other ESC Regions.

The report also includes the following recommendations.

Recommendations for Ensuring the Success of HB 4:

  • Ensure HB 4 per-student funding is adequate to meet the goals of the legislation, providing at a minimum $236 million for the 2018-2019 biennium (i.e., continuing the current funding level of $118 million per school year) 
  • Offer school districts more certainty by providing HB 4 funding through the state’s education formula funding system
  • Work with school districts, community leaders, and Education Service Centers to ensure that all districts, particularly those with lower application rates, have the information and support they need to apply for HB 4 grants if they wish to participate in the future
  • Monitor the implementation of HB 4 to ensure districts comply with the law’s requirements
  • Consider the low level of HB 4 per-student funding during evaluation of the grant program’s effectiveness 

Recommendations for Additional Steps to Improve Pre-k in Texas:

  • Support community and school district priorities for expansion of quality pre-k, whether the priorities are increased access for three-year-olds, offering more full-day options, strengthened parent engagement, additional partnerships with child care or Head Start, or other efforts
  • Provide state funding to interested school districts for expanding from half-day to full-day pre-k
  • Establish a statewide limit on pre-k class size and pre-k student-teacher ratios as recommended by national standards and the 2016 study commissioned by TEA
  • Identify opportunities for additional pre-k program improvements using the data on class size, student ratios, student progress, and other program characteristics that all districts will submit to TEA under new HB 4 requirements

The report is available at

Texans Care for Children would like to thank the following members of the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium (TEGAC) for their support:

  • Amarillo Area Foundation (Amarillo)
  • Austin Community Foundation (Austin)
  • Buena Vista Foundation (Austin)
  • Cooper Foundation (Waco)
  • The Dallas Foundation (Dallas)
  • Educate Texas/Communities Foundation of Texas (Dallas)
  • Entrepreneurs Foundation of Central Texas (Austin)
  • Greater Texas Foundation (Bryan/College Station)
  • MR and Evelyn Hudson Foundation (Dallas)
  • KDK-Harman Foundation (Austin)
  • Carl B and Florence E King Foundation (Dallas)
  • The Meadows Foundation (Dallas)
  • North Texas Community Foundation (Fort Worth)
  • Genevieve and Ward Orsinger Foundation (San Antonio)
  • Powell Foundation (Houston)
  • Rainwater Charitable Foundation (Fort Worth)
  • Raise Your Hand Texas (Austin)
  • Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation (Waco)
  • RGK Foundation (Austin)
  • Sid Richardson Foundation (Ft. Worth)
  • Andy Roddick Foundation (Austin)
  • The Kathryn and Beau Ross Charitable Fund (Austin)
  • San Antonio Area Foundation (San Antonio)
  • Harold Simmons Foundation (Dallas)
  • The Simmons Foundation (Houston)
  • Still Water Foundation (Austin)
  • Tapestry Foundation (Austin)
  • Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation (Austin)
  • Texas Pioneer Foundation (Texarkana)
  • Trull Foundation (Palacios)
  • United Way of Metropolitan Dallas (Dallas)
  • United Ways of Texas (Austin)
  • Waco Foundation (Waco)
  • Webber Family Foundation (Austin)
  • Wright Family Foundation (Austin)