Officials with the State Board of Education are making a recommendation to the Texas Legislature to fully fund full-day pre-kindergarten. 

The state board recently approved a new Long Range Plan for Public Education, according to the Texas Education Agency. The plan creates recommendations to be achieved by 2030. 

“The goals of access and equity serve as the overarching vision of the proposed plan,” according to the TEA. “These goals refer to funding, as well as access to advanced courses and modern technology.”

Identified as key topics under access and equity are:

• Student engagement and empowerment.

• Family engagement and empowerment.

• Educator preparation, recruitment and retention. 

Also included in the plan is a recommendation to implement “quality early learning programs through third grade, including a formula-funded full-day pre-kindergarten, [that] will be fully funded, supported and recognized as the building blocks to future academic and social success ...”

In Texas, pre-K is open to students who are 4 on or before Sept. 1 and who meet one of the following eligibility standards: 

• Federal free/reduced price lunch guidelines.

• Unable to speak or comprehend English.

• Currently or have been in foster care.

• Homeless as defined by 42 U.S.C. Section 1143a.

• Have a parent who is an active duty member of the U.S. armed forces or whose parent was injured or killed while serving on active duty as a member of the U.S. armed forces.

Last year, Cleburne ISD piloted full-day pre-K at three elementary schools. After analyzing data collected from both students and teachers, the CISD board of trustees approved to implement the program at all seven elementary schools for the 2018-19 school year. 

CISD Community Relations Director Lisa Magers said they recognize the importance of early childhood education, as reflected in the decision by the district and the board of trustees in implementing the full-day pre-K for eligible participants this year.

“Our data has shown the educational impact a full-day program has, not only on in that initial pre-kindergarten year, but also in classroom abilities and academic performance as those experiencing the full-day format have transitioned into kindergarten and first grade,” Magers said.

Coleman Elementary School pre-K teacher Jennifer Rigoulot said students in pre-K cover an array of subjects including social and emotional skills, writing and pre-reading skills, math skills, physical development, fine arts and technology. 

“Some specific guidelines suggests that by the end of pre-K, students can identify 20 upper and 20 lower case letters as well as 20 sounds,” Rigoulot said. “Students should be about to count to 30 and count up to 10 items with one to one correspondence.”

To help meet guidelines the state sets, she said, they focus on letter identification and counting through singing, dancing, letter formation, games and play.

“We also spend time reading stories, doing picture walks, talking about concepts of print as well as making predictions,” she said. “We provide activities that help students improve their fine motor and gross motor skills. 

“Students are exposed to apps and websites on the iPads helping them with all the skills mentioned above. Students also have time to explore art through different materials and mediums.”

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