As part of the new Long-Range-Plan for Public Education, the State Board of Education is recommending state-funded full-day pre-kindergarten.
According to the Texas Education Agency, the plan was created with goals of access and equity, and the recommendations are to be achieved by 2030.
Texas children are eligible for pre-K if they are 4 years old on or before Sept. 1 and if they meet one of the following standards: federal free/reduced price lunch guidelines; unable to speak or comprehend English; currently or have been in foster care; homeless as defined by 42 U.S.C. Section 1143a; have a parent who is an active duty member of the U.S. armed forces or whose parent was injured or killed while serving on active duty as a member of the U.S. armed forces.
Some Parker County school districts, including Weatherford, Peaster, Poolville, Millsap and Springtown, have half-day pre-K available. School superintendents agree that pre-K is valuable in teaching children social skills and sets the foundation needed for students to continue their education.
“Pre-K programs are the start of a child’s love of learning,” WISD Superintendent Jeffrey Hanks said. “Pre-K classrooms provide an environment where young children can begin learning social skills in an academic setting to give them a foundation that enhances their readiness to start school and influences their long-term academic success.”
Hanks said the district “applauds” the SBOE’s recommendation of fully funded full-day pre-K.
Poolville ISD Superintendent Jimmie Dobbs said some children need the half-a-day model while others are able to advance to a full day.
“I think the half day model provides a setting that allows children to ‘ease’ into school life,” Dobbs said. “It provides a positive first experience for that child.”
Full-day pre-K might be a better option for families who work all day and aren’t able to drop-off or pick-up their children mid-day, Dobbs said.
Overall, Dobbs and other superintendents said their districts support full-day pre-K if it is funded properly.
“We do hope the legislature will fully fund any new mandates,” Springtown ISD Superintendent Mike Kelley said. “It would be encouraging to see additional support for students beginning their formal education (i.e. “pre-K”) as well at the other end of the spectrum in our career and technology programs.”
Millsap ISD Superintendent Deann Lee said MISD has had difficulty providing full-day pre-K because of the high cost and limited state funding, though full-day pre-K is preferred.
“Full-day pre-K is the optimal preference because it allows a teacher to address the social, emotional and academic needs of young children to a fuller extent than does half-day pre-K,” Lee said.