Pre-K 4 SA will start providing full-day preschool programming to about 1,500 students on Aug. 25, but teachers and staff already are preparing for double the number of 4-year-old students as the program enters its second year. Mayor Ivy Taylor said Monday she is considering ways to further expand the early childhood learning program approved by voters in November 2012.
At a convocation ceremony that began early this morning with a welcome rally and continued on into the afternoon with program goal discussions and workshops, Mayor Ivy Taylor offered praise and support to the more than 300 Pre-K 4 SA staff and teachers gathered at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
“Last year students showed outstanding progress on their individual assessment with over 90 percent meeting or exceeding expectations for Pre K,” Taylor said, adding that attendance was recorded at 93 percent.
Taylor emphasized the importance of the professional development component of the Pre-K 4 SA program, which provides coaching to school districts and teachers in public and private childcare centers.
“(My staff) and I hope to expand the reach of the professional development program to touch more of the childcare centers throughout the city because we know that many of our youngest citizens will be attending those centers as well,” she said.
Pre-K 4 SA, funded by a one-eighth cent sales tax for the next eight years, was recommended in 2011 by former Mayor Julián Castro’s Brainpower Initiative Task Force in order to “move the needle” on educational outcomes, especially for underserved, low-income families. According to the task force’s report, “The data is clear. The best investment in America to improve educational outcomes is Pre-K education.”
“You’ve chosen a path that many did not have the fortitude to choose,” Taylor said, remembering her work in affordable housing with low-income families and the temptation to become a teacher herself. “I realized that education was going to be the key to creating stability for those families.”
Slots for students, staff, and teachers in the sales tax-funded preschool programs at all four Pre-K 4 SA Centers are full for the fall semester. A lottery was held on June 10 to select from more than 3,200 applications. Fewer than 700 enrolled in the program last year, a number affected this year by the recently completed East and West Centers and a streamlined application and selection process.
“Your job will be challenging,” Taylor said. “We want to grow (from) ‘good’ to ‘great.’ ”
*Featured/top image: Pre-K 4 SA materials for an informational session launching the preschool program’s second year. Photo by Iris Dimmick.