Community leaders from across Texas are calling on state lawmakers to put more funding into pre-Kindergarten programming.
The group Texans Care for Children along with United Way of Texas, the Texas Association of Business, Pastors for Texas Children, Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium, Children's Defense Fund-Texas, Children at Risk, Commit Partnership, Mission: Readiness, Texas Association for the Education of Young Children and the KDK-Harman Foundation gathered at the Capitol on Thursday.
They're concerned because the pre-K grant program the state started back in 2015 isn't fully funded in this session's budget bills. According to Texans Care for Children, it will cost $236 million to find the program for the next two years.
The proposed Senate version of the budget includes $65 million for pre-K programs listed as "public-private partnerships" and the House version doesn't put any additional money toward pre-K outside of the standard formula for funding schools.
"We are all frustrated that the funding for high quality pre-K grant program was been taken out of the Senate budget and parked in the 'wish list budget' in article 11 on the House side," said Stephanie Rubin, CEO of Texans Care for Children. "But we're also cautiously optimistic because we know the support for high quality pre-K exists in both houses."
According to Texans Care for Children, 86 percent of pre-K students in the state are currently benefiting from the state's grant program. Experts say those 3- and 4-year-olds are more likely to attend college and they are less likely to drop out of school, become teen parents and commit a violent crime. University of Texas researchers found pre-K saved the state $142 million during the 2013-14 school year by reducing special education costs and preventing grade retentions.
The Senate is expected to vote on it's budget bill next week.