Mayor Castro's Brainpower Taskforce identified early childhood education as the best way for the city to address the city's education problem, a recommendation that led to the development of the Pre-K 4 SA program.
Since this initiative has generated such heated discussion and debate, we are bringing together representatives on different sides and disciplines who can help us shed some light and explain the viewpoints at work.
Join us as Texas Public Radio News Director David Martin Davies moderates a solutions-based conversation between the community and a panel comprising both proponents and critics of the Pre-K 4 SA plan on Tuesday, September 18, 2012.
This event will be broadcast live on the internet via NowCastSA and will be heard on KSTX 89.1 FM on "The Newsmaker Hour," 8 p.m. Sunday, September 23, 2012. All KSTX Town Hall forums are free and open to the public.
- Jeff Judson – Senior Fellow and Director of the Heartland Institute
- John Folks – Retired Superintendent, Northside ISD
- Richard Perez – President, Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce
- Lori Taylor – Professor, Texas A&M's Bush School of Government and Public Service
- Ray Lopez – City Council District 6
- Reed Williams – City Council District 8
- Pre-K 4 SA fact sheet from the city manager's office
- Presentation given to San Antonio City Council
- Reasons to oppose Pre-K 4 SA from the San Antonio Tea Party
Main Components of Pre-K 4 SA
- Increasing the city's sales tax the remaining one-eighth of a cent capacity is expected to generate about $31 million annually
- With the money, the city will establish four Education Excellence Centers providing pre-K for eligible 4-year-olds in San Antonio
- These centers will also provide in-service training for 2,300 to 3,150 teachers, principals, early education leaders and community providers
- The initiative will be for an eight-year period and will be up for voter re-authorization in November 2020
Who is Eligible
Enrollment is free of charge for students meeting the programs eligibility requirements (must meet only one of these to qualify):
- Eligible for free or reduced lunch
- Unable to speak and comprehend the English language
- Child of active-duty member of the armed forces
- Child of service member killed or injured while serving
- Is or has been in foster care
Gaps and Disagreements
According to the city's presentation, there are 20,000 4-year-olds in San Antonio, 16,500 of which are eligible for state pre-K funding, and 5,700 kids who are not getting that year of early education. According to the city's estimated service coverage, the Pre-K 4 SA program will be able to serve 3,700 children when at full operation by the fourth year, so there will still be a gap in complete coverage.
For some people the issue isn't numbers of children covered, it is the question of whether or not early education is the right fix for the education problem. Some people suggest that the money would be better spent on high school programs to prevent students from dropping out and encouraging students to continue on to college. This side says that though early education is a good thing, it won't do enough to raise graduation rates and improve the culture of education in San Antonio as proponents of the program are saying it will.
Supporters say that pre-K is a significant step toward creating the kind of educated workforce that will fuel San Antonio's future economic prosperity. Opponents argue that the city has no business undertaking this financial burden - pointing out that homeowners and businesses already pay school district taxes for education.
Who Will Oversee This Program
The initiative will be governed by a City Council-created corporation for education with a council-appointed 11-member board. City council will approve the annual budget, and annual performance audits and assessments will be conducted by third-party entities.
The mayor and city council voted unanimously to send the program forward for a public vote in the November general election, and although the vote was unanimous, District 9 Councilwoman Elisa Chan and District 8 Councilman Reed Williams both oppose the creation of a corporation to oversee the program.
To additional pictures from this event visit TPR on Facebook.