Editorials

Wholehearted for pre-K, or only half?

Just when there was reason to feel good about what the governor and many others said they want to do about education, somebody comes along and tells us it’s just halfway measures.

The two “somebodies” in this case are state Reps. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, and Marsha Farney, R-Georgetown.

Gov. Greg Abbott has pushed for improved pre-kindergarten education. His proposal is being carried as House Bill 4 by Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston.

Johnson and Farney have proposed House Bill 1100, which is a better bill but would cost more than what Abbott and Huberty have in mind.

Abbott was bold in his State of the State address last month. “We can be number one in education,” he said, “if we apply the same tenacity and commitment to education as we do to job creation.”

Calling for “additional funding for schools that adopt high-quality pre-K programs,” he told lawmakers it is “time to stop fighting about school finance and start fixing our schools.”

The House Public Education committee discussed the two bills on Tuesday.

Huberty has said that under HB 4 the Legislature would devote about $130 million to implement the High Quality Prekindergarten program.

The state currently spends $3,820 per pupil to provide half-day pre-K to kids from low-income, English-language learning, military and foster families.

Under Huberty’s plan, the state would issue grants to add another $1,500 in districts that meet curriculum guidelines, employ certified teachers, measure student progress and have a parent engagement plan.

HB 1100, on the other hand, would pay for full-day classes and limit class sizes to no more than 25 students, with one teacher or teacher’s aid for every 10 students.

It would deliver its additional money to school districts through the state’s formula-driven process rather than grants, which would give districts greater ability to plan for future years.

But the broader bill is priced at $3,650 per student.

Experts who testified Tuesday said full-day classes and limited class size would be better. Huberty agreed but said the cost is too high.

What happened to that “tenacity and commitment to education” the governor talked about?

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