They say it’s a priority, though I would advise tempering one’s expectations.
Currently, Texas funds a half day of preschool for 4-year-olds whose first language is not English, whose families have low incomes, whose parents are active duty military or who are in foster care.
Texas has some of the weakest quality standards for preschool, with no limits on student-to-teacher ratios or class sizes, according to reports from the National Institute for Early Education.
A Republican-led Legislature cut about $5.4 billion from public education funding in 2011, including $200 million for a pre-K grant program that helped some school districts offer full-day classes.
Lawmakers restored a portion of the funding in 2013, including about $30 million for the grant program.
Rep. Justin Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, said that while there’s more bipartisanship support for pre-K this year, Democrats and Republicans likely will split on whether to make it a funding priority.
“I think we’re getting past the point where we have to convince folks of the importance of pre-K,” he said.
But even though more people “are recognizing and acknowledging the importance of that early investment, it’s still going to be determined by the action of the folks in charge and whether they’ll put money behind their assertions that there is a value,” he said.
Greg Abbott put forth a pre-k plan during the campaign, though it didn’t get a lot of discussion and he was vague about details and cost. Even at the high end of his proposal, the amount the state would spend on pre-k would still be down from 2011. With other priorities likely to take precedence and little to no room for growth, my expectation is that we may get some new standards and maybe some incentive money, but nothing beyond that. So again, to sum up in three words, don’t expect much.