The Texas Legislative Guide was designed and developed by Becca Aaronson, Emily Albracht, Daniel Craigmile, Annie Daniel, Ben Hasson and Ryan Murphy for The Texas Tribune. The Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that promotes civic engagement and discourse on public policy, politics, government and other matters of statewide concern.
There was widespread and bipartisan energy behind an effort to boost early education in the state. Gov. Greg Abbott used his first speech after his November win to say education — particularly improving students’ foundation in pre-kindergarten through third grade — would be a top priority of his administration. And during his State of the State address in February, Abbott identified early education as one of five emergency items, putting it on a legislative fast track.
The issue has also long attracted attention from key lawmakers in both parties. But a divide existed between those who wanted to expand half-day programs to a full day and make them better, and others who wanted to first get a better handle on how the existing programs are working. Count Abbott in the latter group.
Lawmakers approved a version of the Abbott approach, and the governor signed it into law in May. The legislation was not perfect, according to both its supporters and critics. Early education advocates had hoped it would emerge stronger from the legislative meat-grinder, while conservatives — including those on a panel that advises Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — saw it as an expansion of state-funded pre-K.
House Bill 4 sets aside $118 million over two years for school districts that agree to bolster their pre-K programs geared toward students from low-income, non-English-speaking, foster and military families. The districts would have to meet certain teacher quality and curriculum measures before they could receive the funding.
Updated: June 1, 2015
- Reforming public school accountability
- Reforming Pre-K
- School choice and vouchers
- Improving educator quality
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