Texas House Education Committee Passes Pre-K Bill That Embraces Governor’s Vision

Gov Abbott with seal and Republican elephant

The Texas House Committee on Public Education voted unanimously, 11-0, in Austin on Tuesday, March 24, to approve the pre-Kindergarten legislation that most reflected Governor Greg Abbott’s vision to improve early education programs in the state.

That legislation, House Bill 4 (HB 4) was authored by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston). If passed into law during the 84th Legislative session, it would infuse up to $130 million into state funded pre-K.

Breitbart Texas reported that HB 4 would add $1,500 more per student for half-day high quality pre-K.  It would be applicable for public school districts that meet the standards set for enrollment. The bill also includes a parent involvement plan. HB 4 maintains the existing pre-K half-day model. This legislation would not grow pre-k enrollment.

Currently, Texas taxpayers fund half-day pre-K for youngsters from eligible low-income, English Language Learning (ELL), military and foster families. According to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, that amounts to $800 million for approximately 225,000 youngsters. Other outlets estimate this figure at 250,000.

HB 4 was “amended to include the additional money in state funding formulas, making it more difficult for lawmakers to zero out the funding in later sessions, and to allow private pre-K providers to contract with public programs.” Huberty said this was “really going to help fast growth school districts,” according to the Houston Chronicle.

Previously, Huberty told a House committee that the state should focus on improving standards in the program and providing additional funds to accomplish the goal. “It’s my hope that additional funding will help every school district in the state provide a high-quality prekindergarten program,” he said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “We want to make sure every kid in the state [in prekindergarten] gets more money,” Huberty added.

During his State of the State address, Abbott placed early education at the top of his “emergency items” for the 84th legislative session to undertake. The Governor ran on a platform of sensible early childhood education to build upon what already works statewide instead of pursuing costly over-bloated Obama-style Head Start universal pre-K programs.

With its passage in the House Education Committee, criticism of HB 4 came from union-related groups like the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel. They blogged that the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) “has concerns the governor’s proposal doesn’t go far enough in providing quality, full day pre-K education for every eligible Texas child.”

The San Antonio Alliance is a multi-union member, affiliated with Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA), part of the National Education Association (TSTA/NEA), the largest teachers’ union in the nation. They are also affiliated with Texas AFT, part of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers’ union, and the AFL-CIO. The San Antonio Alliance represents teachers and support personnel in the San Antonio Independent School District.

TSTA spokesman Clay Robison acknowledged that HB 4 was “extremely important” but called it underfunded. According to the Chronicle, he also pushed for full-day, pre-K-for-all who qualify.

On Tuesday, Huberty said it would cost roughly $2 billion to provide free [half day] pre-K to every Texas four-year-old, and it would cost more than twice that to provide every child with full-day pre-K, according to the Chronicle.

The Texas Senate side’s SB 801, by senators Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) and Donna Campbell (R-New Braunsfels), is the companion bill to HB 4.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.


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