A Pre-K 4 SA teacher instructs her 4-year-old class in writing. Courtesy photo.

Pre-K 4 SA is moving into the final phase of its promise to improve education outcomes in San Antonio through high quality pre-kindergarten. In addition to providing tuition-free education to local families and free training to local educators, Pre-K 4 SA will now multiply its effects again by funding innovation in existing programs.

Proposals are being accepted now through Dec. 18 for $4.5 million in competitive grants to early childhood education centers, private and parochial pre-schools, and Independent School Districts in the San Antonio area. Grants will be awarded based on innovative proposals to increase access to high quality pre-kindergarten, thus furthering the mission voters approved in 2012.

A sunny day at the Pre-K 4 SA South Campus. Photo by Bekah McNeel.
A sunny day at the Pre-K 4 SA South Campus. Photo by Bekah McNeel.

Pre-K 4 SA expects to announce the recipients of the grants in March of 2016, to be implemented in fiscal year 2017. The grant is funded by the sales tax voters approved in 2012. Grants will be awarded on a one time, yearly basis. The following year recipients will be eligible for a renewal if compliance criteria are met. In the two years Pre-K 4 SA’s brick and mortar centers have been in operation, the board has established steady annual operating costs, allowing them to guarantee the $4.5 million yearly through fiscal year 2021. 

Grants to exciting programs were always part of the plan, a multi-faceted approach to reach underserved 4-year-olds across the city. While the four centers will serve a total of 2,000 students per year beginning next school year, the true reach of Pre-K 4 SA will be felt in the spread of best practices throughout the city.

“We’re trying to help other organizations to increase their effectiveness,” said Pre-K 4 SA board chair Elaine Mendoza.

service model

Under the leadership of Kathy Brucks, CEO of Pre-K 4 SA, the program has become an incubator for innovation and scalable improvements. Instructional coaches and teachers from the centers visit other pre-school programs and elementary schools to provide evaluation and training. During the summer Pre-K 4 SA brings in high quality professional development programs not only for their own staff, but for educators across the city and state.

“We’re the petri dish for pre-kinder, 4-year-old education,” Mendoza said.

Elaine Mendoza founder, chair of Pre-K 4 SA and president and CEO of Conceptual MindWorks, Inc. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Elaine Mendoza, chair of Pre-K 4 SA, serves on the Board of Regents, and is founder, president, and CEO of Conceptual MindWorks, Inc. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

With the funding and support San Antonio has elected to supply, Pre-K 4 SA has been able to do what other centers might not be able to do. They are free to devote their entire attention to instruction, curriculum, and training without worrying about fundraisers, sports programs, and other affiliations that can compete for the attention of boards and administrators.

“This is all we do, so we are able to focus, focus, focus,” said Mendoza.

Through the grants, Pre-K 4 SA anticipates an additional 1,700 students will receive improved instruction and programming through their public or private pre-school programs. While any institution may apply, Mendoza hopes that many applicants will have similar missions to Pre-K 4 SA.

“The heart of the program is to serve the underserved,” said Mendoza.

With the grants and the four centers at capacity, the hard numbers indicate that 3,700 students per year will be directly influenced by the tax dollars flowing through the Pre-K 4 SA program. It’s impossible to calculate the breadth of the impact felt through teacher training and the cross pollination of best practices as instructors are exposed to these enriched environments. No one will say what expansions may be possible beyond the eight year mark, but by that time there will be a projected 22,400 young San Antonians to speak for the programs potency.

Pre-K 4 SA encourages organizations interested in applying for the grants to attend an information session at the Pre-K 4 SA, South Center, 7031 S. New Braunfels Ave.

Thursday, Nov. 12, at the following times by category:

             Public ISD Charter/Schools: 5 p.m.

             Private/Parochial Schools: 6 p.m.

             Childcare Centers: 7 p.m.

Saturday, November 21, 2015 at the following times by category:

             Public ISD Charter/Schools: 10 a.m.

             Private/Parochial Schools: 11 a.m.

             Childcare Centers: 12 p.m.

All proposals must be received by the Office of the City Clerk no later than 11 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 18. They can be mailed to P.O. Box 839966, San Antonio, Texas, 78283 or can be dropped off on the second floor of City Hall.

*Top image: Pre-K 4 SA classroom. Photo courtesy of the City of San Antonio.

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Bekah McNeel

Bekah McNeel is a native San Antonian. You can also find her at her blog, FreeBekah.com, on Twitter @BekahMcneel, and on Instagram @wanderbekah.