Companion, bipartisan bills that would spend up to $118 million in aid to school districts offering high-quality prekindergarten education were filed in the Texas House and Senate on Thursday. They were not the first.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has made early-childhood education a centerpiece of his plan for making Texas’ education system “No. 1" in the country. After talking about the issue extensively during his 2014 campaign for governor, Abbott named early education the first among the five items he has listed as “emergency items” for the legislature to consider. The bills filed Thursday, House Bill 4 filed by Republican state Rep. Dan Huberty and Senate Bill 801 filed by Democratic state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, represent Abbott’s plan for expanding early education.
Not everyone is impressed, according to an article in the Austin American-Statesman.
While the bills would introduce quality standards for the first time and send $1,500 per qualified student to districts with programs that meet requirements, public education advocates have it does not go far enough. The two biggest complaints are that the legislation would not cover all of the children who qualify—namely, foster and homeless children or those from low-income, non-English-speaking or military families—and would not require a full-day preschool program despite evidence that shows full-day preschool is a more effective intervention.
“While this is a positive first step in the right direction, it does not go far enough,” David Anthony, CEO education advocacy group Raise Your Hand Texas, told the Statesman. “Texas must make a commitment to our students by providing full-day formula funding for high-quality pre-K—not grants or incentives that can be zeroed out from year to year.”
Critics also pointed out to the Statesman that the new funding would do little more than restore a similar program that was gutted in 2011.
Another bipartisan bill to expand public preschool in Texas had alread been filed in the House when the latest bills were filed. House Bill 1100 would call for more money per qualified student and would specify that high-quality programs should be full-day.
These three bills are not the only proposed legislation for expanding public preschool in Texas, according to the Statesmen, nor are they likely to be the last now that the state’s governor has made the issue a top priority.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.