San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and District 4 Councilman Rey Saldaña are going the distance for a program they say is going to change the educational trajectory of the city.
Starting from Lions Field Park on Broadway, children from the George Gervin Academy helped the two start the run, where 5,700 of their steps represent the number of San Antonio’s four year olds that are not currently served by a quality, full-day pre-kindergarten program.
"The alternative is we're going to do nothing and Austin is not going to save us,” said Castro before the run. “They've shown that they're not willing to make education a priority."
The run is symbolic of the countless hours of leg work city leaders have spent on the Pre-K 4 SA measure.
Aside from the model education centers that would be created should voters approve it, Castro says teachers from every corner of the city will also benefit and therefore help all students.
"One of the components, for instance, of the Pre-K 4 SA is that teachers from around the city in public schools, charter schools and non-profits will be able to get professional development so that we lift the quality all the way from pre-k to third grade of teaching in our city,” said Castro.
But opponents to the program say Pre-K 4 SA is just another costly bureaucratic program. The San Antonio Tea Party's George Rodriguez believes the plan would be here to stay.
As proposed, leaders say it has an eight-year lifespan, but Rodriguez said supporters are playing to voters' vulnerabilities.
"This is the headache that we've got, is that quite often Liberals will play on the emotion of an issue rather than on the facts and the figures,” said Rodriguez. “And when you play on an emotion, well it's for the children, how can you argue that it's for the children? Who isn't for children? We're for children. It's just that we're not for this program."
The opposition is why Castro and Saldaña felt they had to shed their suits and ties for running shorts and tennis shoes. Castro has said publicly he is resting his tenure as mayor on the issue.
Saldaña agrees with Rodriguez on one level, that this is an issue with a heartstring.
"We have a choice of two things. We can accept the conditions as they are, or we can accept the responsibility to change it. And we know that good, smart cities confront their problems and we can't be arguing about how to fix education, how to get four year olds on the right track for the next 10 years. We need to act, and Pre-K 4 SA is one way our residents can act," said Saldaña.
Castro and Saldaña finished their run at the top steps of City Hall. They are counting on a victory come election night, and said they would like to get started implementing the program right away.