Editorials

All kids should have access to quality pre-K

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

School superintendent Dr. Kent Scribner.
School superintendent Dr. Kent Scribner. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

Regardless of how you feel about preschool, more money for public education is never a bad thing.

Almost 600 Texas school districts are getting funding to help strengthen high-quality pre-K programs.

The Fort Worth school district will receive about $3.4 million in funding for high-quality pre-kindergarten programs. The district will get about half now and the other half in the fall.

Almost all other Tarrant County school districts will also get funding.

The state already funds pre-K programs for the economically disadvantaged, military family members, wards of the state and children trying to learn English, but this funding could help provide public pre-K for any student.

Fort Worth already welcomes all students into its free pre-K program, though children who meet federal requirements get priority. But funding should boost quality, availability and accessibility.

Pre-K has become a focal point for schools as they try to improve test scores, college readiness, the dropout rate and disciplinary problems.

“If you want a college and career-ready high school graduate, you must have a kindergarten-ready preschooler,” says Superintendent Kent P. Scribner on the Fort Worth district’s website.

Currently, 60 percent of Tarrant County students do not meet third-grade reading standards, says the Texas Education Scorecard created by the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

Only 70.8 percent of eligible children are enrolled in public pre-K, which is below the state average.

After third grade, students stop learning how to read and start reading to learn. If a student still has trouble with reading fundamentals, catching up becomes hard.

Pre-K can benefit all students, but children from low-income families benefit the most. Preschool helps close the academic gap between low-income students and their wealthier counterparts while providing schooling that might not be available elsewhere.

“Children from low-income families tend to lag behind their peers developmentally when they start kindergarten, and research has shown that participation in quality child care and pre-K programs are especially impactful for these at-risk children,” says the North Texas Community Foundation’s Growing Up in North Texas 2016 report.

Accessibility to public education benefits all.

Quality preschooling can start any child off right, and this funding will help keep parents from paying for something that should be free.

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