Statement on Pre-k and the Final State Budget Bill

For Immediate Release

May 22, 2017

Contact: Peter Clark, 512-473-2274

AUSTIN - Following the release of the Texas House-Senate conference committee's decisions on SB 1, the 2018-2019 state budget, Stephanie Rubin, CEO of Texans Care for Children, released the following statement on pre-k funding in the state budget:

"During the 2015 legislative session, the Governor and Legislature established a new high-quality pre-k grant program through HB 4 and provided participating districts with $118 million in grant funding for the current school year. The effort represented a strong bipartisan consensus that high-quality pre-k is critical to the success of Texas students.

"Today we are deeply disappointed that legislative leaders decided to eliminate pre-k grant funding in the new state budget. The decision amounts to a $118 million per year cut for school districts. It appears that the only pre-k funding in the final version of the new state budget is the standard half-day funding that is included in the school finance formulas.

"The new budget requires all districts to meet the higher standards of the HB 4 grant program, but only using existing resources. Clearly the best way for the Legislature to improve the effectiveness of pre-k, and make sure kids are ready to succeed on day one of kindergarten, would have been to combine the higher standards with additional funding.

"We knew that this would be a tough legislative session for pre-k kids. It was a tight budget year with a lot of competing priorities. There was a lack of consensus about the best way to fund pre-k improvements, with the Senate, House, and the Governor each offering competing proposals. And pre-k funding got caught up in the larger political battles between state leaders. Nonetheless, after families, business leaders, faith leaders, and others from across the state loudly called for a stronger commitment to quality pre-k, it is disappointing that the Legislature did not come through. 

"While this was bad news, we're encouraged by a few things. The final budget confirms that the Legislature believes higher pre-k standards are important for all districts. That may provide an opportunity to work with legislators on pre-k standards, such as class size limits, after this session. It was also encouraging to see legislators offering different ideas this session about how to deliver extra funding to improve pre-k. We can continue that conversation and hopefully reach a consensus for next session. Finally, it was encouraging to see the Governor continue to be a strong champion for pre-k. We appreciate his leadership.

"Ultimately, this doesn't change the fact that Texas children will do better in school and later in life if they have an opportunity to attend a high-quality pre-k program. There are many legislators, children's advocates, business leaders, teachers, and others passionately committed to making that happen, and we'll all be working together over the next two years to keep moving forward to make sure Texas children have that opportunity."