Texas opts not to try for federal pre-K funding as enrollment rises

Nov 2, 2013 by

AUSTIN — As state lawmakers and pre-K advocates look for ways to fully fund early childhood education, Texas has opted not to apply for a federal grant that would bring in up to $75 million for pre-kindergarten programs statewide.

The Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge — a $280 million competitive grant program that received applications from 16 states and the District of Columbia — might have helped the state increase the number of low-income and disadvantaged children enrolled in early learning programs and lay the groundwork for developing new ones.

Lucy Nashed, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, said in an emailed statement that “the governor continues to support having a quality pre-K system in Texas. However, the state was concerned with being tied to potential ongoing obligations.”

The state also did not apply for the grant’s first round in 2011, when about $500 million was available.

It’s a “missed opportunity,” said Carol Shattuck, president and CEO of the Houston organization Collaborative for Children. She said the state could have used it to improve quality in public pre-K programs and create a solid network for early childhood education in Texas.

Texas could have been a formidable contender for the grant and $75 million “would have been a lot of money to leverage some smart thinking” and fund innovative pre-K solutions, said John Gasko, former chairman of the Texas Early Learning Council.

The state did get almost $4 million in federal funding in September to assess kindergarten readiness for entering students.

Perry has not decided whether the state would apply for funds under President Barack Obama’s proposed Preschool for All initiative, which would bring an estimated $308 million and is still pending in Congress.

State opts not to try for federal pre-K funding as enrollment rises – San Antonio Express-News.

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