Sarah Baray, Pre-K 4 SA CEO, thanks outgoing City Manager Sheryl Sculley for her service.
Pre-K 4 SA CEO Sarah Baray speaks in front of city council. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Education leaders convened by Pre-K 4 SA CEO Sarah Baray are working to form a San Antonio chapter of Early Matters, an advocacy group for early-childhood education that is active in Austin, Houston, and Dallas.

The idea for the organization came out of last year’s San Antonio Regional Public PK-12 Education Forum. Baray and other leaders felt that the conversation on the importance of early education needed to continue beyond the forum’s panel discussions. Baray and the education advocates developed working groups to identify early learning leaders in the business community, examine the training pipeline for early learning teachers, and look further into ways to fund full-day pre-kindergarten programs.

During the past year, the group of education officials – including Shari Albright of Raise Your Hand Texas, education philanthropist Mike Burke, Kate Rogers of the Charles Butt Foundation, and Henry Gonzalez of Choose to Succeed, began communicating with other Early Matters groups across the state, Baray said.

“Once we started looking at what Early Matters groups were doing in other cities in Texas, we realized that San Antonio having its own Early Matters group could be very helpful in making sure that we continue to think about how best to get strong education outcomes for our youngest learners,” Baray said.

Each city’s Early Matters chapter is organized slightly differently based on the needs of the area. In San Antonio, Baray said, ReadyKidSA already helps to bring together practitioners and service providers under the umbrella of the Children’s Agenda of Bexar County. San Antonio therefore has a greater need in bringing together business and civic leaders to advocate for better policies and outcomes for young children.

Baray’s group has asked the statewide Early Matters group for permission to add a San Antonio chapter. While permission hasn’t officially been given, Baray anticipates Early Matters San Antonio will be approved.

There are still few details available about what exactly the organization would do, where it would be housed, or who would run operations.

One priority is clear: One of the first issues Early Matters in San Antonio will take up is gathering voter support for the reauthorization of funding for Pre-K 4 SA in 2020.

Voters are expected to take up the ballot issue in less than two years to re-authorize funding for the early childhood education entity. Voters first authorized an eighth-of-a-cent sales tax to go toward Pre-K 4 SA on the November 2012 ballot. 

In previous discussions, most City Council members have expressed broad support for the program. Pre-K 4 SA has received some criticism, however, from Councilmen Greg Brockhouse (D6) and Clayton Perry (D10). At a May 2018 council meeting, the two quizzed Baray on whether Pre-K 4 SA could continue to exist on support from grants alone, rather than tax revenue.

Almost a year later, Baray said Early Matters SA will work toward maintaining Pre-K 4 SA in the community and building up other organizations that support early learners.

“I hope what [those interacting with Early Matters San Antonio] will take away is that our future in the community is really tied to how well we prepare our youngest learners and that they have confidence that as a community we have identified metrics and strategies to help us move forward in improving educational outcomes for young learners,” Baray said.

Baray will discuss Early Matters San Antonio further during a panel discussion on April 2 at the fourth annual San Antonio Regional Public PK-12 Education Forum.

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.