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Texas Pre-K Program Falls Short, Report Suggests

April 17, 2019
Silas Allen
Dallas Observer

Texas is lagging behind other states in the education it offers to its youngest learners, according to a study released Wednesday.

But a plan lawmakers are considering to fund full-day prekindergarten statewide could help turn the state’s early learning program in the right direction, one of that study’s authors said.

“It would be a great start for Texas,” said Steve Barnett, senior co-director of Rutgers University’s National Institute for Early Education Research.

Released Wednesday, the institute’s annual State of Preschool yearbook lays out a series of benchmarks that researchers say states must have in place for their early childhood education programs to be successful. Those benchmarks include offering professional development opportunities for faculty and enacting policies that support picking good curricula and implementing them well.

Of the 10 benchmarks outlined in the report, Texas’ state-funded early childhood program meets only four. Among other areas where the state falls short, Texas doesn’t have statewide maximum class sizes or limits on teacher-to-student ratios in prekindergarten classes. In states whose programs don’t meet at least half of the benchmarks, “There’s real cause for worry,” Barnett said.

“These are minimums,” he said. “These are what we think research says if you’ve got all 10 of these, you can get in the game. We’re worried about you if you don’t.”

The report also notes that Texas spent about $850 less per student on its pre-K programs in 2018 than it did a decade earlier.