Ninety percent of a child’s brain capacity develops before his or her fifth birthday, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The speed at which children grow places an emphasis on early childhood education.

Early education was one of just five priorities Texas Gov. Greg Abbott named in the 2017 legislative session and has been a focus for local officials in recent years, resulting in the creation of initiatives like Pre-K 4 SA. It will also be the focus of the 2018 San Antonio Regional PK-12 Public Education Forum, slated for March 6.

The event will take place at the Mays Family Center at the Witte Museum. Tickets are $65, and all proceeds will support local education initiatives.

At this annual event, education leaders will gather to discuss the long-term impact of high-quality early childhood development. The event will begin with remarks from P16Plus Council of Greater Bexar County Executive Director Ryan Lugalia-Hollon and The Holdsworth Center Executive Vice President Kate Rogers.

The event’s keynote speaker, Steven Barnett, is the founder and director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. A member of the National Academy of Education, Barnett has researched the distribution of educational opportunities, a topic pertinent to San Antonio, where poverty rate has a strong correlation with achievement in local school districts.

Local and state education experts will participate in a panel moderated by Rivard Report Publisher Robert Rivard. Panelists include Sarah Baray, CEO of Pre-K 4 SA; Alejandra Barraza, principal of Carroll Early Childhood Education Center in San Antonio ISD; Kelsey Clark, principal at the Boston Consulting Group; and Cynthia Osborne, director of the Center of Health and Social Policy with the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT Austin.

“Research has shown that early childhood education contributes not only to improved academic outcomes for students, but also to improved social and economic outcomes for communities,” Baray said in a prepared statement. “Each year at Pre-K 4 SA, we prepare 2,000 children for kindergarten and provide $4.2 million in grants to support another 2,000 students. Over the long term we are on track to change the educational and workforce trajectory of San Antonio within one generation.”

Osborne serves as the director of the Child and Family Research Partnership and was previously the director of the Project on Education Effectiveness and Quality, an LBJ School initiative that measured state educator preparation programs’ influence on student achievement.

Clark consults on education-related issues at her Dallas area firm, working on implementation of early childhood learning programs.

H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt will receive the Education Champion Award.

The first San Antonio Education Forum took place in 2016 when retired energy executive Michael Burke initiated the planning process. More than 30 local education nonprofit groups have participated each year.

The forum has raised more than $120,000 in sponsorship so far this year, according to the event’s website.

Presenting sponsors include the Rivard Report and the San Antonio Clean Technology Forum. Rivard Report members will receive discounted tickets; details are forthcoming.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.