Working with our supporters and partners in Texas and across the country, we’ve had several great victories this year that will help more children and their families be healthy and thrive.
But we are celebrating one of the biggest victories for Texas kids in recent memory: Governor Greg Abbott recently signed HB 3, the school finance bill that funds full-day pre-k for currently eligible four-year-olds.
Until now, the state has funded half-day (three-hour) pre-k for kids who meet the state’s eligibility requirements. While school districts had the option of using local funds to extend pre-k to a full day, many districts stuck with the half-day approach funded by the state.
Now, the state will provide an estimated $780 million over the biennium through an “early education allotment” in the school funding formula to cover the cost of full-day (six-hour) pre-k for currently eligible four-year-olds. Districts can seek waivers from the full-day pre-k requirement for a duration of six years but, under the new law, they will have to show meaningful efforts to partner with child care and Head Start. If districts already provide full-day pre-k, they can either supplant their local investments with the new state dollars or make other early literacy and early math investments.
As a result of the new pre-k funding and other early education provisions in HB 3, we’re hopeful more children will start kindergarten with the academic skills — and perhaps more importantly, the social and emotional tools — they need to succeed and be strong readers by third grade.
Of course, there is much more work to do on early childhood education in Texas.
We need to ensure Texas leaders sustain these new investments. We need to address the fact that Texas has no limits on pre-k class sizes or student-teacher ratios. And we need to strengthen our policies and programs — in areas ranging from child care and maternal health to children’s health coverage and Early Childhood Intervention (Texas Part C) — that help parents shape the foundational experiences of our young children.
This pre-k victory was possible because, year after year, so many diverse Texans have advocated for pre-k, educated policymakers and the public about the critical importance of the first few years of a child’s life, and fought for policies that help children succeed.
As we all know, sometimes it takes an extra year or even an extra decade to accomplish our goals, but if we stick together, keep fighting, and are strategic, we will prevail — and the future will be brighter for each and every child.
Stephanie Rubin, CEO, Texans Care for Children
(July 2, 2019)