Four-year-old Jaydon stood with his classmates and teachers outside the Barbara Jordan Community Center on the city’s East Side on Wednesday.
Rev. Herman Price, who is a leader with Community of Churches for Social Action, spoke about the importance of the Pre-K 4 SA initiative and said it is a moral issue.
"You can't sit by idle and watch what's happening to our young children," Price said. "Studies are showing that kids who have the blessing of being enrolled in a full day, quality early childhood program tend to do better. In high school, they tend to finish and go on to college and do great things."
Price pointed to the 3,700 inmate population at the Bexar County Jail and figured if only they had been captured sooner, maybe many of them would have chosen to stay in school. He believes their situation only gets worse over time.
“You're hopeless, you don't have any plans for the future, you don't value life, you don't feel loved,” said Price.
Mayor Julián Castro doesn’t miss an opportunity to tout the plan that many have criticized. Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff is one opponent who says the program will not benefit every child, even though everyone would be forced to pay a higher sales tax rate in the city.
But Castro, who admits the program isn’t perfect, says it’s a place to start.
"This Pre-K 4 SA initiative represents a great opportunity for a very low cost to make a profound investment in our four year olds,” said Castro.
George Gervin Academy Superintendent Barbara Hawkins said she believes in the plan. Once a dropout recovery high school, the academy is now a pre-K through 12th grade school with attendance of 1,600. Hawkins said more than 750 of her students are pre-K age.
"I always like to look big picture,” said Hawkins. “Big picture says there is an initiative out there to creatively fund opportunities for four year olds to get in school. So I see it as an expansion. As it relates to the details, I would challenge anyone who's against it to get involved with the Governance Board, put information to the Mayor and to the leadership that's developing this initiative, and tell them the things that they think are good and bad."
Hawkins encourages people to not get caught up in the details, but opponents say that’s exactly what they’re interested in. Keith Larson, via the Texas Public Radio Facebook page, poked fun at city leaders whom he believes asks for money before a significant plan is given to voters.
However, on the other side, Rev. Price encourages people to have a little faith when it comes to this idea that he said will change the lives of thousands of youngsters.
"I think the church can't wait for people to come to it,” Price said. “The church [has] to go to people."