State backs improved Pre-Kindergarten

Published 8:19 am Saturday, April 9, 2016

Editorial by Dade Phelan

It is that time of year when many school districts across the state are beginning to register children for their 2016-17 pre-kindergarten programs. As a father of four young children, I can attest that kindergarten is not what it used to be. Finger-painting and naptime have been replaced with spelling tests, foreign languages and computer classes. Children starting grade school now are in a competitive, grade-based environment. Those students who did not experience a quality pre-school or Pre-K curriculum run the risk of falling behind their peers at a very early age. The earlier they fall behind the more likely they are not to finish high school.

Your Texas Legislature addressed this concern by passing House Bill 4 last session and is committed to improving the quality of prekindergarten classes in Texas. Adding an additional $130 million over the current biennium, the measure offers additional funding for school districts that adopt new standards such as hiring only certified teachers for the classes, implementing curriculum that aligns with the Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines, and establishing a plan for parental engagement. House Bill 4 also requires school districts to implement the approved State Board of Education TEKS and prohibits the use of common core curriculum.

This is not a universal full day Pre-K program. This is an option for qualifying parents of four-year-old children in districts that choose to offer the program. This legislation addresses early childhood developmental needs in the most sensible, efficient, and conservative way possible. By requiring parental engagement, House Bill 4 ensures that families are still the primary educator of our children. This legislation does not alter the previous eligibility requirements or qualifying population.

The bill also will allow school districts to use private educational service providers through a contract for services arrangement. This is especially beneficial to school districts that do not have the capacity for more programs in their current facilities and do not want to take the more expensive rout of additional debt.

Investing a limited amount of money in effective Pre-K now will provide at-risk students with the early educational foundation they often lack. This will save taxpayers in high remediation costs as these students progress through their education. Remediation is what it takes to get a child “caught up” to the rest of the class. Just in House District 21 (part of Jefferson County and all of Orange County) the cost of remediation exceeds $24 million per biennium. The cost to the entire state exceeds $3 billion in direct expenditures and does not take into account the stranded cost of lost productivity.

A high quality pre-kindergarten program will better serve the entire state and allow the smallest Texans an opportunity to excel.

It is honor to serve the citizens of Southeast. If I may ever be of assistance, please contact me at, 512.463.0706 or 409.745.2777.

May God bless you all and may God bless Texas.

Dade Phelan is Texas House Member Representative for District 21