Trustees push VISD to offer pre-K to all students

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

Aug. 15, 2013 at 3:15 a.m.

Victoria school district educators agree on the long-term advantages to pre-K.

At VISD, students who are accepted into pre-K are those who qualify for free or reduced lunch, come from an active military household or are currently in foster care or are learning English as a second language.

But why isn't pre-K available to all students?

During a Victoria school district presentation on pre-K at Thursday evening's regular board meeting, board vice president Bernard Klimist said he was stunned to learn that full-day pre-K is limited to economically disadvantaged or otherwise at-risk students. Trustee Michael DiSanto joined Klimist in disbelief.

District administrators said the advantages of pre-K are evident - those in the program earn higher salaries than their peers who did not attend pre-K; they are less likely to be arrested as an adult and less likely to be placed into a special needs program by the third grade.

Klimist asked, but what about the average student?

Tammy Sestak, the VISD director of federal programs, said she's received several phone calls from parents asking that same question.

"I wish we could offer it to all students," Sestak said. "But we just don't have the resources."

The state only funds campuses for half-day pre-K. VISD picks up the rest of the tab on its full-day pre-K program.

However, specific dollar amounts were not available Thursday night to board members.

Currently, VISD tries to keep its pre-K enrollment at 17 students to a teacher.

But depending on the success of President Barack Obama's universal pre-K program and future revenue, VISD superintendent Robert Jaklich said change may be on the horizon.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us in order to get there," Jaklich said.

"That's why you see that money we're hoping to save in our fund balance for next year." To offer pre-K to all students in VISD, the district would need more money to fund additional classrooms, renovations and staff, said the superintendent.

"The perception that the average kid doesn't need pre-K is absolutely wrong," Klimist said. "But what we do know is that pre-K does make a difference."

In other business, the board entered a workshop where they discussed the proposed tax rate and 2013-14 budget.

No action was taken on the two workshop items.



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