Julian Castro's Signature Ed Policy Rejected in Own Backyard

Julian Castro's Signature Ed Policy Rejected in Own Backyard

The South San Antonio Independent School District (SSAISD) Board of Trustees voted to opt-out of the city of San Antonio’s Pre-K 4 SA program.   The 6-1 vote was taken at a regular meeting held on April 16. SSAISD was the only area school district to decline an extension of its participation with the program. 

SSAISD’s decision not to renew with Pre-K 4 SA is perceived as a “somewhat unexpected bruise to San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who has made this initiative his mayoral education centerpiece,” the San Antonio Express-News wrote.

NBC-4 San Antonio reported that SSAISD Superintendent Dr. Abe Saavedra took issue with what he felt was Pre-K 4 SA’s unwillingness to negotiate on the language of how the program operated. Saavedra said he preferred to expand the district’s own pre-K program.

“Both programs are good quality programs,” said Saavedra, who recommended against signing up for a second year with the city program not only because the district already had a well-regarded pre-Kindergarten program but because too few South San families participated in Pre-K 4 SA in its first year, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Saavedra also said, “It is important that we focus our energy and efforts on the program that serves the greatest majority of our four-year olds. And that would be our in-district program.” 

Saavedra indicated that he is developing the framework to have South San Antonio ISD offer a pre-K program that will match the city’s extended hours for working parents.

Additionally, some school board members were skeptical about the mechanics of participating and several districts negotiated changes to their memorandums of understanding for the coming year, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

However, this decision may have come amid controversy. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has been looking into SSAISD following allegations of misuse of public money, according to the local NBC affiliate.

Pre K-4 SA supporter, Councilman Rey Saldaña told NBC San Antonio the week before that he believed the delayed board vote was political retribution by trustees irritated at his call in recent months for state oversight of South San Antonio because of its financial problems, administrative turnover and allegations of board micromanagement. The vote was supposed to take place in March.

Breitbart Texas spoke to TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson who advised that SSAISD is under “special accreditation investigation based on primarily concerning the district’s state fiscal management practice, related governance, and student performance issues.”

However, she pointed out that any decision made by SSAISD to go in-house on their pre-k program was not influenced in any way by the TEA or its investigation. She said that was a local district decision.

The San Antonio Express-News quoted Saavedra as saying that the decision was “a policy issue, not a political one.” He also said he made the recommendation after weighing the all the available data.

Saavedra also stated in the interview that he was promoted from interim superintendent to full-time superintendent in March, which he said in response to Saldaña claims that Saavedra deliberately delayed a March vote.  He said it was not a top priority and it “simply slipped my mind.”

Pre-K 4 SA is a full-day pre-kindergarten program that also offers free afterschool care to families residing in the city of San Antonio. The program is funded through voter-approved sales tax and state pre-K funding that school districts agree to pass along based on the number of students who sign up. The taxpayer funded program is free to those eligible families; although, ten percent of non-eligible area families attend pay a monthly tuition.  Prior to SSAISD dropping out, Pre-K 4 SA served eight school districts in Bexar County.

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