DALLAS, Texas–Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) recently introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to transform his brother Julian’s mayoral signature education plan Pre-K for SA (San Antonio) into Pre-K for USA.
The Pre-K for USA Act would allow local education agencies and cities to tap directly into the Fed Led Ed spigot through grant programs and cut out state legislatures entirely in the creation and development of preschool programs.
This is not entirely new to Texas. In 2013, the Houston Independent School District applied to the Race to the Top (RTTT) program throughthe U.S. Department of Education’s “district” option (RTT-D), which allows for a district in a non participating state to go directly to the Fed Led Ed folks. Houston ISD was a $30 million winner. Texas continues to be a non-Common Core participating state but Houston ISD feeds at the federal trough. RTTT and RTT-D are taxpayer funded.
Bypassing the system was part of Castro’s special message to Texans in commentary picked up by the Dallas Morning News. In it Castro insisted that “Local entities must have the ability to step up to the plate and pick up the slack where their state governments are failing. Instead of waiting on action from the state, this bill would enable cities like Dallas to invest in their own communities future.”
Typical reformer rhetoric for a proposed nationalized pre-K that embraces progressive logic that preschool like K-12 and pretty much all “college and career readiness” is a shared civic responsibility, a birthright, a collective civil right, and for all those cradle to grave needs, government knows best. Like everything federal education mandates have to offer, this is an open invitation to jump onto the big government dole starting at age 4.
It’s not a new idea either. In 1999, then Vice President Al “carbon footprint” Gore proposed similar in a massive legislative package — $50billion to go to pre-K for all based on the Head Start model. Gore stopped just short of deeming it universal pre-k because that would have cost taxpayers roughly $300 billion to fund over 10 years — in Y2K dollars, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).
All these years later, President Obama’s bloated $750 million a year proposed universal pre-K is also built on Head Start, a program instituted by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 for low-income families.
Yet, in the commentary, Castro claimed, “Studies have demonstrated for years that students who have a top-notch pre-K education are more likely to read at grade level, less likely to repeat a grade or drop out, and more likely to succeed in their careers. Studies also show that youth who attended preschool classes are less likely to develop alcohol or drug problems, commit a felony or end up in prison.”
Not exactly. According to a US Department of Health and Human Services Study, they found that youngsters who participated in the $8 billion dollar early childhood Head Start program did far worse in math and interpersonal relationships by grade three. The study also showed that despite claims ofpreschool’s positive effects, they pan out as short-lived, evaporating in the early elementary school years.
Castro loaded up his arsenal of euphemisms with the usual 21st Century buzzwords to describe his Fed Led Ed, Jr. plan–high quality, top notch, outstanding, first rate, impressive and successful pre-k–while taking swipes at Texas public education.
He wrote, “Texas has an unfortunate track record of refusing to apply for federal funds, which has stunted investment in health care and education and left our federal tax dollars spent elsewhere. The good news is that local entities, such as school districts and municipal governments, across the country have taken matters into their own hands.”
The Castro educational approach lunges for those federal tax dollars. Like Common Core and Career and College Readiness Standards, once a part of the Fed Led Ed family, the state is held accountable to the federal regulations governing the program and the state takes a backseat role.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) also wants to transform Pre-K for SA into Pre-K for Texas. Her early education platform budgeted a swollen $750 million a year of Texas taxpayers dollars for full day, wrap-around universal preschool.
Pre-K for SA is funded through a voter approved sales tax. As mayor, Julian Castro maxed out the city of San Antonio’s sales tax rate in doing this.Still, Rep. Castro touted the virtues of Pre-K for SA, writing “More than 600 students successfully completed the Pre-K for SA program in its inaugural year, and two more pre-K centers are set to open in August.”
Castro neglected to mention that not everyone is coming back for more. South San Antonio Independent School District (SSAISD) ditched Pre-K for SA for the 2014-15 school year. The district cited expansion of its already taxpayer funded “high quality” pre-k program as Breitbart Texas reported. SSAISD residentswhose children attend the district will get double taxed, though — for the pre-k they pay for through property taxes and the sales tax that funds Pre-K for SA.
However, Pre-K for SA has not been completely sales tax driven. Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff told the San Antonio Express News in 2012 that Pre-K for SA has a 10 percent window of families that must pay a monthly tuition because they don’t meet the eligibility requirements which, like in Dallas ISD’sprogram, includes that the entering four year-old must have limited English proficiency, qualify for free or reduced lunch, be homeless or in foster care,and/or have a parent active in the military. This is hardly pre-k for all.
Pre-K has become quite the political football. Along with the Castro brothers, the president, and Davis, hard leftist Bill de Blassio built his New York City mayoral campaign around the pre-k issue. Recently, cash strapped California had to pull back on its abundantly taxpayer funded$2.5 billion pre-K for all plan much to the chagrin of top legislative Democrat Darrell Steinberg who shepherd the project. The revised $1.3 billionTribune. The funding for this will come from raiding earmarked taxpayer funds committed to public school kindergarten budgets.
Castro wants to open “access to prekindergarten to all our children gets our country one step closer to ensuring that all American children have the opportunity to get ahead in life, achieve their dreams, and boost our nation’s prosperity.” Yet it’s interesting that the timing of this Pre-K for USA push has directly coincided with brother Julian being tapped as the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) despite allegations that under his leadership, San Antonio misused HUD funds as Breitbart Texas reported.
Since Joaquin Castro introduced Pre-K for USA, it has been incorporated into the Senate’s Health, Education, Pensions and Labor (HELP) Committee existing pre-k legislation, according to KSAT News, ABC-12. The intention is to create a pre-K caucus in Congress that results in a pre-K bill that gets onto the president’s desk. Question is, will Pre-K for USA morph into Head Start-for-all?
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.