Survey Also Shows Districts Want State to Offer Full-Day Pre-k If State Provides the Funding
For Immediate Release
Contact: Peter Clark, [email protected] 512-473-2274
AUSTIN – A new report shows that Texas school districts are facing difficulties after Texas lawmakers cut pre-k funding during the 2017 legislative session while simultaneously adding new pre-k requirements for school districts. The report by Texans Care for Children and the Commit Partnership also shows that school districts are eager to offer full-day pre-k, rather than half-day pre-k, if the state provides adequate funding for it.
“Strong pre-k programs are so important for making sure that kids show up to kindergarten with the skills they need to succeed instead of starting off behind their classmates on day one and struggling to catch up,” said David Feigen, Early Childhood Policy Associate at Texans Care for Children. “As legislators work on school finance next year, we are hopeful that they will make full-day pre-k a priority.”
“We understand our state legislators have a lot on their plates this upcoming session,” added Kim Manns, Managing Director of Early Matters Dallas at the Commit Partnership. “We would argue there is no more worthy investment than the one the state makes in Texas’ earliest learners – prioritizing high-quality, full-day pre-k is an excellent way to ensure our children have access to a firm foundation.”
The report is based on an online survey of school districts conducted by the two organizations in the summer of 2018. Survey participants represent a meaningful cross-section of Texas school districts. In total, 95 school districts educating 38 percent of the state’s pre-k students responded to the survey.
Impact of Legislature’s 2017 Decisions
The survey asked districts about the impact of decisions made by the Texas Legislature in 2017. That year the Legislature eliminated funding for the High-Quality Pre-k Grant Program that they had established in 2015 based on Governor Greg Abbott’s proposal. In addition to eliminating $118 million in annual funding for the new grant program, the Legislature also eliminated $30 million in supplemental pre-k funding and passed Rider 78 to require all school districts to use a portion of their pre-k funding to comply with the standards that were previously applied only to those districts that participated in the High-Quality Pre-k Grant Program.
The report shows that the Legislature’s decisions on pre-k during the 2017 legislative session harmed Texas students. Sixty-two percent of surveyed districts said the loss of the pre-k funding negatively impacted their pre-k programs at least “a moderate amount” while 38 percent said the cuts had “a lot” or “a great deal” of impact on their pre-k programs. Districts reported that the cuts affected pre-k in numerous ways, including classroom materials, instructional coaching, staff compensation, and recruitment efforts and also affected grade levels and district programs outside of early education. Additionally, school districts reported that the Rider 78 requirements were confusing and difficult to implement, particularly because the Legislature imposed the requirements at the same time that it eliminated funding.
Districts Prioritizing Full-Day Pre-k
The report also showed that full-day pre-k is a top priority for school districts. The state currently provides funding for voluntary half-day pre-k for four-year-olds who are low-income, learning English, or meet other criteria. Some school districts use other funds to offer a six-hour full-day program rather than a three-hour half-day program. Full-day programs are more effective at preparing children for kindergarten. Because half-day programs often conflict with parents’ work schedules, full-day programs also provide an opportunity for more eligible students to enroll. The State Board of Education recently called on the Legislature to fund full-day pre-k for interested districts through the school funding formulas.
When asked what they would prioritize if districts received additional pre-k funding from the state, the majority of respondents (58 percent) say they would use that funding to pay for full-day pre-k. A smaller number of districts indicated they would prioritize lower student-teacher ratios, instructional coaching, professional developments, or other investments. When asked if they would provide full-day pre-k if state funding were available, 79 percent of districts with only half-day programs said they would start to offer full-day pre-k. Twenty-one percent were unsure. Zero districts said they would continue with only half-day pre-k if the state funded full-day pre-k.
“School districts see the value in full-day pre-k firsthand when those students go on to achieve academic success in later years. The Legislature should support districts’ commitments to these students by properly resourcing a full-day pre-k option,” Ms. Manns said.
“Districts across Texas affirmed that the Legislature should invest in full-day pre-k to ensure young students benefit from effective early learning environments and are on track for lifetime success,” said Mr. Feigen.