VISD to offer pre-k despite budget cuts

July 6, 2011 at 2:06 a.m.

Victoria schools will continue to offer a full-day pre-kindergarten program in the coming year, despite millions of dollars in state budget cuts.

The pre-k program serves students who are homeless, in foster care, eligible for a free or reduced lunch, a child of an active military parent, or who speaks little English.

Superintendent Bob Moore said he believes strongly in the full-day program for those children whose life circumstances qualify them for pre-k.

"With the growing number of financially-challenged families in our community, it behooves us to make certain that just because a child is economically disadvantaged does not mean the child is educationally disadvantaged, as well," he said.

Moore has opted to dedicate some of the Federal Educational Jobs Funds Grant to cover the salaries of pre-k teachers and teaching assistants for one more year. The Legislature ended the pre-k expansion program that funded full-day classes offered on all but three VISD elementary campuses.

The opportunity to offer full-day pre-k classes across the district began two years ago with a five-year grant through the Texas Education Agency. Funding to offer full-day programs also came through bilingual education funds and federal Title I funds, with some supplement from federal stimulus funds.

For the 2010-11 school year, the state pre-k grant directed almost a half million dollars into providing for the full-day program. TEA eliminated the remaining three years of funding available by the grant in light of statewide budget cuts. The federal stimulus funds are also no longer available. This left the future of the full-day program in doubt.

But Moore still made the pre-k programs a priority in VISD.

"Pre-kinder programs, especially the full-day offerings, provide students with many of the enhancements they might not be able to receive in the home like social skills, language development and academic foundations. Education in early years cannot be short-changed or overlooked."

The district will continue to utilize some Title I funds and bilingual education funds to support the full-day program in 14 classes. The federal EdJobs program will support the full-day program in 15 other classes across the district. The original half-day funding will still be provided through the state based on attendance.

Last year, VISD enrolled more than 600 students in pre-k programs across the district. As the district enrollment increases and the number of students who qualify as economically disadvantaged continues to grow, so are the number of students enrolling in pre-k expected to increase.



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