Governor bolsters commitment to pre-K funding with visit to HISD

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Days after making early childhood education his top priority upon taking office, Gov. Greg Abbott visited an HISD elementary pre-K program and renewed his call for state support in providing a solid foundation for the state’s youngsters.

The governor and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams toured pre-K, kindergarten and first-grade classrooms at the School at St. George Place Thursday afternoon and observed its full-day pre-K program for four-year-olds. That was followed by a roundtable with HISD leaders.

Abbott said that what he observed validated that “a one-size-fits-approach doesn’t work” and that early learning is developmental and requires additional attention. He explained that his proposal would allow schools to make their own decisions about how funding is used. “What we think is important is it gives you flexibility because the reality is the people who know it best are the people on the ground, in the school, in the classroom.”

Abbott is proposing $200 million next year to fund half-day pre-K programs throughout Texas. Ashlea Graves, HISD’s legislative liaison, said HISD is committed to full-day programs and “welcomes the chance to showcase what we do so well to a governor who’s committed to early childhood education.”

“We’re hoping that he was impressed by our high standards and that they can be used as a benchmark for statewide standards as the governor and TEA move forward with this important advancement for early childhood education,” Graves said.

She said HISD would stand to gain about $1,500 per pre-K pupil under Abbott’s funding proposal, which would be administered through TEA, and would make the district less dependent on federal Title I funds.

HISD Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones said she was pleased to hear the governor “validate our position in allocating funding for early education…remediating in third-grade is much more expensive than investing money up-front.”

Abbott said he is looking to HISD to help his administration in “educating legislators.”

HISD is part of Early Matters, a coalition of more than 50 school districts and stakeholders that is advocating for increased state funding, wider access for four-year-olds (and eventually three-year-olds), plus quality standards for the area’s early childhood education programs over the next decade.

St. George’s diverse population speaks 27 languages, and a welcoming committee of pupils greeted the governor in six of those languages.

In addition to the pre-K program, the School at St. George Place offers English-as-a-second-language instruction, is an International Baccalaureate campus, has a neighborhood Vanguard program for gifted-and-talented students, and a variety of self-contained special education classes for special needs youngsters.

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2 thoughts on “Governor bolsters commitment to pre-K funding with visit to HISD

  1. Janice Toby

    I am pleased to see that the state and HISD is acknowledging the need for early childhood education. I have witnessed students entering first grade not knowing their names, what a pencils is, or the difference between a lettter and a number.
    Having pre-kindergarten available is a preventive measure. We provude so many experiences that prepare students for kindergarten. Which makes the kinder teachers job easier. Therefore making first grade less strenuous for students and teachers.
    Thank you for allowing comments,
    A pre-kinder educator who loves her job

  2. Tasha

    I fully support the $200 million of support for state-wide half-day
    Pre-K funding. This would allow twice as many students to
    begin acclimating to the socialization of a school environment and
    begin the framework for pre-reading, pre-writing, and pre-mathe-
    matics skill building.
    If a full day Pre-K program includes two meals (breakfast and lunch) ,
    ancillary (time out of the Pre-Kindergarten room with other teachers
    for fifty minutes), quiet ‘rest / nap’ time, outdoor recess, and the
    afternoon snack time, plus the necessary scheduled restroom
    breaks including hand washing; that equals approximately three
    hours and thirty minutes of non-homeroom teacher instruction.
    If a half day Pre-Kindergarten program starts with breakfast at
    8:00 a.m. and continues the instructional day with a self-contained
    teacher to guide the student from separation anxiety to independence;
    having the A.M. Session end each day by 11:45 a.m. would give the students
    and teacher about the same instructional time as they receive in a full
    day Pre-Kindergarten. Allowing for the afternoon session to have
    lunch from 12:00 noon to 12:30 p.m. would give three hours of
    instructional time if the P.M. half day would go home at 3:30 p.m.
    If the afternoon session were to eat lunch at home, the start time
    of noon to 3:00 p.m. would allow transition time for the teacher to
    prepare for the second session.
    For teachers that want only part-time work, there could be a
    flex schedule. One teacher would take the A.M Pre -K.session and
    the flex partner could take the P. M. session.
    I can see many benefits to the state of Texas youth for a
    half-day Pre-Kindergarten initiative. Perhaps in an area, there
    might be less students per session thereby lowering the student
    teacher ratio at this tender age. If you have fifteen students per session,
    we would still be servicing more students per day than overfilling
    a Pre-Kindergarten class with twenty-two students.

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