When San Antonio resident Aide Galvan’s father was 5 years old, he was living in a Mexico border town selling chewing gum for five cents to passersby. Today, Galvan teaches children of the same age from all over San Antonio how to read, write, garden, and play in the Pre-K 4 SA program.

She recalled how her father stressed the importance of education during a Saturday morning Keep Pre-K 4 SA campaign event. Galvan said if it hadn’t been for her dad she wouldn’t be where she is today – a teacher with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. 

“He was the pipeline for me and where I’m at today,” she said tearfully. “If it wasn’t for him instilling education [in me], I would not be here at Pre-K 4 SA … I want to continue to be that pipeline for [these students] the way my dad was for me.”

Galvan also noted that children who participate in pre-K or other complimentary early education programs have shown to do statistically better in school later on. 

Early childhood educator Aide Galvan shares her experiences at Pre-K 4 SA. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The 40-minute program included comments from Joe Straus, former Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and co-chair of the Early Matters San Antonio Steering Committee, and parents of Pre-K 4 SA students. The committee launched in 2019 with the goal of preparing for the 2020 election, in which voters will decide whether to renew local funding for Pre-K 4 SA. 

Pre-K 4 SA launched in 2012 after San Antonio voters approved a dedicated one-eighth-cent sales tax toward the program with aims of increasing local access to high-quality, full-day preschool education. 

At the time Texas only paid for half-day pre-K programs. Last year state lawmakers approved funding full-day pre-K. Today Pre-K 4 SA directly serves 2,000 students who attend one of the program’s four geographic centers. Families with students who don’t qualify for free pre-K pay tuition on a sliding scale.

The event Saturday morning celebrated eight years of successes for the early education program, which leaders hailed as paving the way for early education programs in the state.

“Eight years ago, Pre-K 4 SA was a visionary early childhood education program with bold promises to get kids school and workforce ready,” Straus said. “[Since then] Pre-K 4 SA’s impact is proven, and it works.”

Pre-K 4 SA also operates the Professional Learning Program, which provides 10,000 hours of free instruction to 2,000 district teachers annually, and the Competitive Grants Program, which has provided more than $21 million to public school districts, charter schools, child development centers, and parochial schools.

Kate Rogers, vice president of community outreach for the Charles Butt Foundation, said while 2020 has changed how classes within Pre-K 4 SA look due to the coronavirus pandemic, the mission behind the program has not changed. Rogers acted as the moderator for the event. 

“The purpose here today is to encourage each and every person out there to please vote ‘yes’ on Nov. 3 to keep Pre-K 4 SA, one of our city’s most amazing feathers in our cap,” Rogers said.

Kate Rogers, vice president of community outreach for the Charles Butt Foundation, speaks about the community impact of the program ahead of the vote in November. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

A parent whose two sons have attended Pre-K 4 SA programs, Jude Hill said the program has had immeasurable benefits on his sons’ performance in school. Hill said he hopes the program will be around long enough for his 2-year-old daughter to attend in two years. 

Hill said his son Liam, 6, had the benefit of participating in the program two years ago, while Luke, 5, experienced half of the program in a classroom last year and half of it online earlier this year.

“One of the big things that I always mention is just their development of confidence,” Hill said. “Confidence in themselves, confidence in doing their schoolwork, confidence in being a student.”

Disclosure: Kate Rogers is a member of the San Antonio Report’s board of directors.

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report. A native San Antonian, she graduated from Texas A&M University in 2016 with a degree in telecommunication media...