From the inbox:
State Representatives Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) and Marsha Farney (R-Georgetown) today filed a bill to provide incentive payments to school districts to provide full-day, quality pre-kindergarten. To receive the incentives, districts would be required to adopt best practices identified through research as delivering the best return on educational investment. Texas’ current system funds only a half-day of pre-k and does not ask school districts to meet any substantial quality standards. The Johnson-Farney bill builds on a framework proposed by Governor Abbott last year.
“The research is in, and it shows that full-day pre-k is one of the best investments we can make in education. It can cut the achievement gap for children in poverty in half and will reduce future spending on remedial education, special education and the criminal justice system. If we’re serious about improving public education, we’ve got to get serious about full-day pre-k,” said Rep. Johnson.
The bill contains several transparency and accountability measures designed to ensure that taxpayer dollars are invested wisely. Participating districts will report much more information on student achievement, teacher performance, program design and parental involvement to the state under the new plan. The plan expressly prohibits any new standardized, high-stakes tests, but uses existing assessments to measure program effectiveness when students enter kindergarten and the 3rd grade.
The proposal has the general support of a wide array of stakeholders, including business associations, school districts, children’s advocacy groups, private schools and municipal leaders, including the Dallas Regional Chamber, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, Dallas Independent School District, the Commit Partnership, the Dallas Early Education Alliance, the ChildCareGroup (Dallas), Texas Association of Business, Children at Risk, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, and Austin Mayor Steve Adler.
The bill in question is HB 1100. The full press release, which contains a list of supporters, is here. Reps. Johnson and Farney first announced their intent to file such a bill last week – here’s the fact sheet and framework that came with the earlier announcement. As you know, I am skeptical of Abbott’s approach, which would still leave funding for pre-k well below 2011 levels, when it was decimated along with most everything else in the hysteria budget of that cycle. This is better than nothing, and given a choice between it and nothing, I’ll take this. Best case scenario, it works well enough to be a springboard for something more, assuming we have any funds left over after Dan Patrick finishes giving out tax cuts to the wealthy. That counts for progress these days. The Trib has more.