Monday was the first day of school for many children in Texas, and Governor Greg Abbott celebrated the occasion by visiting Zavala Elementary School in Austin, Texas. The Governor reiterated his commitment to make Texas number one in the nation for education.
The Governor met with kindergarten, first grade, and second grade students. He thanked educators for their hard work and talked about the importance of pre-K programs, which he said is “the cornerstone of a good education.”
“With the investments in early education made this past legislative session, Texas is working to build the strongest possible foundation for our students to succeed in the classroom and beyond,” said Governor Abbott in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas.
The Governor continued, “As a new academic year gets underway, I look forward to continuing to work with legislators to elevate the Lone Star State to become a model for educational excellence in the nation.”
As reported by Breitbart Texas’ education expert Merrill Hope, the Texas Governor signed into law House Bill 4, the signature legislation of his emergency early childhood education initiative. The bill establishes a grant program that sets aside $130 million over two years for public school districts to improve the quality and accountability of the state’s pre-Kindergarten or “pre-K” programs.
Abbott declared early education issues to be an emergency item during his State of the State Address in February.
The Governor said at the time, “By signing these bills, we are providing our education system with the tools and resources necessary to build the strongest possible foundation for our early education programs and subsequently, Texas’ future,” as reported Breitbart Texas.
HB 4 intends to implement high-quality education standards for Texas Pre-K students. The lead author of the bill was Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood). The bill closely tracked Abbott’s pre-K vision.
Early childhood education topped the list of Abbott’s five legislative emergency items.
Breitbart Texas reported that Abbott ran for governor on a platform of sensible early education, a manageable “gold standard” that would bump up pre-K programs by building upon what already works statewide. HB 4 is not an expansion of pre-K, according to Abbott and the lawmakers who either sponsored or carried the bill.
Texas taxpayers had been funding half-day pre-K for four-year-olds from low-income, English Language Learner (ELL), military, foster, and homeless families. HB 4 allocates up to $1,500 per child to eligible public school districts that agree to enhance their early education programs for these qualifying students, as Breitbart Texas reported. Districts must also implement specific teacher training, meet new curriculum requirements, and increase parental involvement before they can receive any grant money. Participating schools will have to report certain data about their pre-K programs to the state.
The Governor’s wife, First Lady Cecilia Abbott, is a former school teacher, vice-principal and school principal.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2