Texas officials soon to set rules for Pre-K money

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Your tax dollars paid for most of the Pre-Kindergarten programs in Texas. But this past session, lawmakers put more state money toward pre-k at the request of Governor Greg Abbott. The process of deciding what districts will receive the additional funding got underway.

The state capitol put $130 million dollars of Pre-K money on the table. Now it’s up to the Texas Education Agency to figure out where it goes.

Administrators, deans, and principals from across Texas came to Austin for a fair shot at the money. With 220,000 Pre-K students in Texas, officials can’t give grants to every kid.

“Not enough to go around,” said  Education Commissioner Michael Williams. He says the process need to be fair, transparent, and allow the money to go where there’s a need .

“How we’re going to measure your application. How are we going to determine who gets the dollars and what are expectations once you receive the dollars,” said Williams.

“It’s a very exciting time,” said Jacquie Porter from AISD’s Early Childhood Education Team.

She says the state pays for half day programs for students who are either poor, non-English speaking, or whose parents are in the military. But she says more money would help her keep up their full day program.

‘It will help the district financially, to off-set costs, but also will help the district with high quality programming to make sure that our children in Austin get the very best,” said Porter.

TEA regulates more than 1,200 school districts. How they set the rules today, will decide who gets the money tomorrow.

The TEA plan to finalize the rules by spring, so the money will be available next school year.

The Austin school district has already seen a big expansion in its pre-kindergarten program. Porter told us enrollment surged this school year to more than 5,100. That’s up from 4,500 last year. It also includes a new half-day program for three-year-olds. About 480 students signed up for the program.

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