ETX schools share realities of proposed universal pre-K program -, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

ETX schools share realities of proposed universal pre-K program

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In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, the president announced a plan to offer high-quality preschool available to every student in America.

Currently, only 20 to 30 percent of four-year-olds have access to preschool, and a universal preschool program would mean different things for public and private schools.

At Lindale ISD's Early Childhood Center, the benefit of preschool is seen every day.

"It just gives them a head start, where maybe some of those students' parents are having to work more, and so they can't be at home and they don't get exposed to the stuff they need to get that head start," said Lindale ISD superintendent Stan Surratt.

Lindale ISD offers a full-day of pre-K for qualifying students, even though only a half-day is subsidized by the state, and Surratt agrees with the president's assessment that an investment in early education saves money later on.

"Certainly the data shows that these students are more successful when they attend pre-K programs," said Surratt.

King's Academy Christian School currently doesn't offer a Pre-K program. Their administrator, Kenneth Cargill, calls pre-K a positive part of a child's education, but worries about the financial burden on his school because of additional regulations required of preschool programs.

"Financially what we find is that it can be very burdensome to try to balance providing quality atmosphere for your employees, appropriate pay, at the same time that you provide, meet all the regulations," said Cargill. "Can we provide the same kind of quality atmosphere for a child in a preschool, not considering the regulation, that we can in our private school K through 12 that doesn't have as much regulation?"

If the president's goal for universal Pre-K becomes a reality, Surratt foresees a several-year wait before his district would be able to provide all students a pre-K education.

"If we made that opportunity for all students, it would be great, but we'd have to find the funding for those teachers and those teacher's aides, and the big thing would be the classroom space," said Surratt. "We've got to have enough classrooms to put those students and those teachers in."

Still, it's a goal he hopes can become a reality.

"I hope the president's initiative will get parental and community support because I think it is needed," said Surratt. "It will help students be more successful and it will pay for itself in the long run."

The White House said that the new federal-state program to guarantee preschool would assist four-year-olds from families at or below 200 percent of the poverty line. About 45 percent of 4-year-olds fit that criteria.

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