10:28 am CST - May 05, 2009
Posted under On The Record
The Texas House recently got a first reading of House Bill 130, authored by Reps. Patrick, Eissler, Anchia, Pitts and Thompson. HB 130 calls for “an enhanced full-day kindergarten program provided by public school districts in conjunction with community providers.” A companion bill, SB 21, has been filed in the Senate by Zaffirini.
The Austin American Statesman reported that HB 130 will cost an additional $390 million in Fiscal Year 2010-2011, to increase to $584.7 million in Fiscal Year 2012-13. The bill requires that full-day pre-k programs be offered and also stipulates a partnership with Head Start and private providers, as well as class-size limits, teacher certification and an approved curriculum.
A 2006 study by the Texas Public Policy Foundation reported that approximately 50% of four-year-olds participate in a state-funded pre-k or special education program, 11% participate in Head Start and 35% attend a private pre-k program. The report went on to add that a 2005 study by Stanford-UC Berkeley showed that center-based preschool has a negative effect on social skills, particularly for low-income students.
In a March 2009 report for ABC’s 20/20 John Stossel said that “The government thinks it can do a better job [with a universal pre-k program], but don’t they have enough problems running K-12 education? ”
While Stossel’s report focused on using federal aid to fund a universal pre-k program, the logic applies just as well to Texas education.
The Texas Comptroller’s website reports that Texas ranks #49 in verbal SAT scores and #46 in math SAT scores, nationally.
Supporters of a universal, government run pre-k program argue that pre-k is the best way to reach minority and low income students and avoid letting them fall through the cracks. Supporters also argue that students enrolled in a pre-k program are more likely to be productive members of society with higher paying jobs.
However, a study conducted by the Arlington, Virginia based Lexington Institute stated that, “In the District of Columbia, with 90 charter school campuses serving one-third of all public school children, highly effective and often innovative early childhood programs are a big reason charters have gotten so popular, and grown so quickly.
Targeted programs, such as those underway in many inner-city charters, make more sense as a way to help disadvantaged children by means of early schooling than do big government programs that squeeze out choice and diminish the role of parents through arbitrary measure of program quality.”
Stossel’s report concluded that while some states have implemented state run pre-k programs, the benefits are not necessarily positive. Studies indicate that students immersed in too much pre-k may be the cause of disruptive and aggressive behavior in elementary school. Oklahoma, home to a government run pre-k program has seen a drop in performance.
Positive results of a pre-k program also fade as students progress in school.
“By the second, third, & fourth grade, they can’t tell the difference between the kids that went to Head Start and the kids who didn’t,” said Lisa Snell, education director of the Reason Foundation.