If you are not reading the Disconnected series that brings San Antonio’s economic segregation into sharp focus each week, start Monday with Part Six, which examines in text and video the impact of inadequate public transportation on working class people.

Parts Four and Five delve into public education inequities. It’s no secret that access to a good education is key for today’s inner-city families seeking to break the cycle of generational poverty. That’s why the May 2 city election calling for renewal of the Pre-K 4 SA program is so important.

It’s where the path to a good education and a purpose-driven life begins in San Antonio.

The campaign for Pre-K 4 SA’s renewal launched Friday at the Southside headquarters of Holt Cat, a festive event hosted by CEO Peter J. Holt, who also serves as co-chair of Early Matters San Antonio. The event featured a strong turnout of elected officials and education leaders, but it was the powerful testimonials of inner-city parents standing beside their young children who had graduated from the program that stole the show.

Anyone who believes San Antonio’s U.S. Census ranking as the metropolitan area with the highest percentage of people living in poverty is a problem too big to address is wrong. The Pre-K 4 SA initiative and the city’s larger commitment to providing quality, full-day early childhood learning for all 4-year-olds is a big first step on the path out of poverty.

No one says it better than Lionel Sosa, who rose above his own early life in poverty to become an accomplished artist, advertising and marketing entrepreneur, and now, founder of the nonprofit Yes! Our Kids Can. Read How to Change the Poverty Mindset, his commentary published here on Feb. 27.

The inaugural class of Pre-K 4 SA students is now in fifth grade. With each passing year, the opportunity grows to measure the indisputable impact of early childhood education on them and the thousands of other San Antonio children who have graduated from the nationally recognized program.

Human brain development occurs exponentially faster in infancy and early childhood than in later years, especially when properly stimulated with learning opportunities in a healthy environment. It isn’t hard to understand why research proves that 4-year-old children who attend quality, full-day pre-K thrive compared with children who do not enjoy the same opportunity.

Research efforts supporting that claim have been led by W. Steven Barnett, senior director and founder of Rutgers University’s National Institute for Early Education Research, the leading center for such work.

The research produced by Barnett and his colleagues over the last 20 years is data-driven proof of value. While additional sources can be cited, there is enough evidence assembled by the Rutgers institute to refute any politically driven claims to the contrary.

Thanks to the Charles Butt Foundation, Barnett was the keynote speaker at the Rivard Report‘s third annual PK-12 Public Education Forum in 2018. Look this week for an article previewing our fifth annual public education forum, scheduled for March 24.

Another timely read is a March 2019 commentary written by Pre-K 4 SA CEO Sarah Baray that dispels myths and false assumptions about San Antonio’s program.

Kate Rogers, vice president of community outreach and engagement for The Charles Butt Foundation, arguably has become San Antonio’s most visible advocate for improved public education outcomes in San Antonio. Her boss, Charles Butt, chairman and CEO of H-E-B, has long been the single most effective advocate for elevating the quality of public education in Texas.

Rogers served as master of ceremonies at Friday’s Pre-K 4 SA campaign launch. She and the foundation are becoming a unifying force behind the growing number of individuals, civic leaders, employers, and nonprofits working together to improve education opportunities in San Antonio.

“It is critical to our kids, to our city, and to our future that the reauthorization of Pre-K 4 SA passes in May,” said Rogers. “The results of the past eight years are clear, and we’re ready to rally the community around the importance of ensuring that all kids have access to high-quality education through Pre-K 4 SA.”

Early voting runs April 20-28. Take time out from Fiesta to cast your vote and avoid the May 2 rush.

Disclosure: Kate Rogers serves on the Rivard Report’s board of directors, and the Charles Butt Foundation is a financial supporter.

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is co-founder and columnist at the San Antonio Report.