Support for pre-kindergarten education in Fort Worth and at the state level is prudent fiscal management and good long-term planning.
Tarrant County voters have always given bonds and all kinds of local taxing authorities a skeptical eye. They are not foolish with their money and know how to invest wisely.
Fort Worth voters chose in 2013 to support expanded access to quality pre-kindergarten. They learned long ago that investing in students early dramatically reduces short- and long-term costs to local taxpayers.
In the last session of the Legislature, Gov. Greg Abbott made quality pre-kindergarten his top priority. Hisstrong and vocal support was hard confirmation that pre-kindergarten is not liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat. Pre-kindergarten is just smart business.
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Now, we must ensure that all Texans are working together to improve child outcomes and to make the governor’s pre-kindergarten quality initiative a success.
Pre-kindergarten is not a vaccination to guarantee success in school.
Students who come to pre-kindergarten without having had crucial learning supports from birth to three will struggle to read. Students who leave pre-kindergarten for over-crowded elementary school classrooms with poorly trained teachers will also struggle to read.
There are obstacles that can be managed with a little common sense and management.
For example, Texas spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually to support early childhood programs at the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Workforce Commission.
Amazingly, these efforts have almost no coordination.
A child care center receiving money from the state has no obligation to connect its early childhood education with the public school pre-kindergarten program down the street.
Kids lose a valuable opportunity to start early, and taxpayers miss an opportunity for their dollars to have a bigger impact.
New TEA Commissioner Mike Morath, a former Dallas school board member, must work to ensure that these massive systems are at least talking to one another.
As the Legislature reconvenes in less than a year, our representatives must do everything possible to support the governor’s pre-kindergarten initiative.
Arguably, the smartest investment of taxpayer dollars is a coordination of early childhood programs across state agencies.
The same families are often eligible for related programs housed in different agencies — public pre-kindergarten, child care subsidies and parenting education.
State funds for these programs can be used more efficiently through a coordination of data sharing, data systems, consumer education, program delivery, program resources and professional development.
With a new education commissioner and a renewed interest in early childhood education, our state’s youngest learners, their parents, business leaders and taxpayers have a reason to be optimistic.
Bob Sanborn is president and CEO of Children at Risk.