Reps. Johnson and Farney Unveil Pre-K Reform Framework

Posted by Eric Johnson (Texas) on January 27, 2015 at 4:36 PM

Support from business associations, school districts, children's advocacy groups, private schools and municipal leaders

School-education-learning-1750587-h.jpg

State Representatives Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) and Marsha Farney (R-Georgetown) released a framework on January 27, 2015, for reforming pre-kindergarten in Texas to improve quality and bring greater transparency and accountability to the system. The framework - largely based on Governor Abbott's proposal - has wide ranging support from business associations, school districts, children's advocacy groups, private schools and municipal leaders.

"Investing in high-quality pre-k is one of the best investments we can make in education. Recent studies have shown us how to do pre-k right and the tremendous positive impact pre-k can have on educational outcomes, particularly for at-risk children" said Rep. Johnson.

"Many of the most at-risk children who are eligible for this valuable program are not able to attend due to the abbreviated half-day schedule that is problematic for working parents to manage.  I applaud Governor Abbott's desire to provide quality educational opportunities for our pre-k students and believe our proposal is a step in the right direction to create a high-quality, transparent, and accountable educational system for our youngest students," said Rep. Farney.

The proposal offers optional incentive payments to school districts in exchange for adopting curriculum standards and adopting best practices regarding instructional day length, teacher-student ratios, classroom size limits, teacher professional development and coaching requirements, and parental involvement. Participating school districts must publicly report classroom and student progress data and implement certain program changes if they fail to demonstrate adequate student progress. Districts are also encouraged to partner with private schools to operate classrooms or share faculty and facilities.

The current system of half-day, state-funded pre-k does not include any of these requirements.

"The children of Texas deserve a first-class education, but the taxpayers of Texas deserve to know their dollars are being well spent. This proposal adopts research-driven standards with respect to quality pre-k and requires transparency and accountability so that the public can evaluate the results," said Rep. Farney.

Pre-kindergarten has been shown to cut the achievement gap in half for children in poverty, the equivalent of a 4-year-old jumping from the 30th percentile to the 50th in one year. Early results of a Dallas ISD program showed a 350% increase in achieving kindergarten readiness among participants in their full-day pre-k program. Other studies have shown that for every dollar invested in high-quality, full-day pre-k, there is a return to society of $3.50 in increased earnings, reduced need for remedial or special education, reduced future incarceration rates, and reduced reliance on public assistance.

"Many of our children never have the opportunity to excel in school because even by the time they enter kindergarten, they are so far behind that they never catch up," said Rep. Johnson. "This proposal is aimed at improving outcomes where we can get the most bang for the buck - children in poverty and English language learners."