It’s been more than a year since the formation of early education advocacy group Early Matters. This November, its top priority will be put to the test as San Antonio voters will decide whether to renew a one-eighth-cent sales tax for Pre-K 4 SA, the City’s full-day prekindergarten program.

Renewing the sales tax funding for Pre-K 4 SA will serve as the conversational centerpiece for the San Antonio Report’s virtual education forum on Friday, but Early Matters leaders also will share what they’ve learned from other early education advocacy groups and discuss how investing in our community’s youngest learners can shape San Antonio’s educational and economic success. 

The hourlong event starts at 12 p.m. and free registration is available here.

San Antonio Report Editor and Publisher Robert Rivard will moderate the conversation that will include Joe Straus, former speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, and Peter Holt, CEO of Holt Cat, who both led the Early Matters steering committee. Also participating are Sarah Baray, CEO of Pre-K 4 SA; Katherine Filut, director of ReadyKidSA at the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County; Adrian Lopez, CEO of Workforce Solutions Alamo; Diana Rauner, president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund; and Annie Koppel Van Hanken, senior program manager for the George Kaiser Family Foundation.

When Pre-K 4 SA was first approved by voters in 2012, Texas funded only half-day pre-K programs. Last year, state lawmakers approved funding full-day pre-K, but 40 percent of 4-year-olds still don’t qualify for free pre-K. Today Pre-K 4 SA directly serves 2,000 students who attend one of the program’s four centers. Families with students who don’t qualify for free pre-K pay tuition on a sliding scale.

A 2019 study from the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Urban Education Institute found that students who attended Pre-K 4 SA in its first year were more likely to perform better on state exams and attend class than those who did not attend public pre-K.

According to a Bexar Facts/KSAT/San Antonio Report poll conducted earlier this year, 68 percent of likely voters interviewed supported extending the tax to support Pre-K 4 SA. The extension had been scheduled for a May election but was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposition to renew Pre-K 4 SA will be listed on ballots as Proposition A. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3, and early voting will take place Oct. 13-30. Applications for a ballot by mail must be submitted to the Bexar County Elections Department no later than Oct. 23.

This event series is sponsored by the Charles Butt Foundation.

The Charles Butt Foundation is a financial supporter of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business and nonprofit members, click here.

This article was assembled by various members of the San Antonio Report staff.