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Access to bilingual pre-K expanding in Del Valle

Parents will be able to enroll their children into a full-day dual-language program funded through the American Rescue Plan.

DEL VALLE, Texas — After the passing of the American Rescue Plan Act, funding provided to the City of Austin and Travis County will soon be expanding access to full-day dual-language pre-K for 4-year-olds within Del Valle ISD.

Enrollment is now open for eligible students this school year in the area, which has been classified as a child care desert. Enrollment will also open in January for the fall 2022 school year.

According to a press release from Austin City Councilmember Vanessa Fuentes, the classes will benefit families that fall into the space between qualifying for state-funded pre-K based on socioeconomic levels and being able to afford the tuition-based pre-K program.

"I think in a time where we're coming off a pandemic, and all of us have been hit financially, it's a time where we're giving something back to the community and giving them an opportunity to put their resources where they need to in their home so we can take care of their children," said Dr. Annette Tielle, Del Valle ISD superintendent. 

For the 2021-22 school year, Brittany Clay enrolled her 4-year-old daughter in the program. 

Credit: Pamela Comme

This has lifted a financial burden off her family's shoulders.

“This is enormous for us,” said parent Brittany Clay. “While we’re not an under-resourced family, we’ve been able to do other things for our family – build an emergency fund, save up for our infant.”

Fuentes said that prior to enrolling Clay's daughter in the program this year at Newton Collins Elementary School, Clay's family was set to pay $1,000 a month for child care for her 4-year-old, plus $1,500 more for her infant. These pre-K savings have afforded her family a change in their quality of life and allowed them to give back to the school in ways that were not possible before.

"Some of us parents formed a committee at the school, and I have been able to donate some of my own money for fundraising when we do things like teacher appreciation gifts," said Clay. "It allows me to do more for the school."

Funding for this program was approved over the summer, with the City of Austin giving $750,000 and Travis County matching, allowing Del Valle ISD to hire certified teachers and teacher assistance for somewhere between five and nine new bilingual pre-K classrooms. Each will offer a low staff-to-child ratio (1 to 10) with a maximum size of 20 students. Funds are also available for the purchase of furniture, learning materials, equipment and supplies.

Fuentes, whose seat represents this area, advocated for this funding after learning about the gap in her district.

"The challenges of child care, from high costs to long waitlists, are devastating our communities," she said. "Thanks to ARPA funding from this summer, we’re able to help families in Southeast Austin access child care during this challenging time and to level the playing field for Del Valle. And this is just the start. Biden’s Infrastructure bill and Build Back Better plan are prioritizing child care and I look forward to even greater impacts."

Students are eligible for the program if they reside in the district's boundaries, are not eligible for state-funded pre-K and attend an elementary school where at least 80% of families qualify for free or reduced lunch programs. 

Families with questions about the program can contact their child's assigned campus.

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