Concerns regarding Pre-K 4 SA discussed during Mayor Julian Castro’s forum
Two main issues addressed were funding and what resources would it have for children.
Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 17:10
How Pre-K 4 SA will be funded and who will be eligible were questions posed to Mayor Julian Castro Friday in his second forum at this college to promote the initiative that San Antonio voters will decide in the Nov. 6 general election.
He brought along Rebecca Flores, the city’s education coordinator, to answer questions in the chemistry and geology building.
The room was packed as at least two professors brought their classes.
Castro gave students, faculty and staff facts about the initiative before opening the floor for questions.
Psychology sophomore Laura Smith asked Castro, “If all goes well, what percentage of the gap is it going to fill?”
Castro answered that in an eight-year-period, the program will have served 22,400 4-year-olds. When the program is fully implemented 3,700 4-year-olds will be served annually.
Castro also said 5,700 4-year-olds are currently not benefitting from full-day quality day care.
“It’s not meeting the gap, but it is meeting the majority,” he said. “We think also that we are never going to get to 100 percent even if you open it (the program) in theory for everyone.”
Smith said although her child qualifies for the Head Start program, it did not meet the standards she wants.
“Are you guys going to make the proper measures to make sure this (Pre-K 4 SA) does?” Smith asked.
Castro said one of the biggest concerns is how the program is different from the Head Start program.
“I mentioned that what we are going for here is excellence. We are going for a gold standard of education so we are paying the teachers more, and we are recruiting master teachers,” Castro said.
Gina Goldman, an employee in admissions and records, asked, “I am understanding that the program will emphasize in SAISD … would there be the same opportunities available for people who don’t fall in the poverty levels?”
Castro answered that 10 percent of the slots will be open to children whose families are above the income cut-off.
“We need to see what the demand is on that end and then make adjustments from there,” Castro said.
The initiative is for children all over the city who qualify under state guidelines.
San Antonio Independent School District has 5,200, and Northside Independent School Districtr has about 4,600 or 4,700, that’s why there will be a center in each quadrant of the city so it’s open to everyone, Castro continued.
Goldman asked, “Would there be a large shift in the grant money or the funding that goes from CCDS (Child Care Delivery System) into this Pre-K program?”
Castro said, “This initiative is self-sustaining. There is state money that comes through with the child from the half-day state Pre-K. There is a little bit of federal money for transportation and meals, but not from that money you are talking about.”
Flores said, “We know we have 20,000 4-year-olds approximately every year, so we have to do this together, and we won’t be taking existing grant money from programs.”
Art freshman Carlos Valdes shared his experience while in Pre-K, saying that all he really did was sit in front of a computer and learned from there.
“What kind of resources are the children going to have?” he asked.
Castro said that it was fascinating for him to learn the approach other states are taking in early childhood education.
They focus on numeracy and literacy and incorporate that into a playful environment, but they also integrate technology, Castro explained.
“We think that there are going to be prime opportunities with foundations and corporations that are willing to donate technology, and I would like to see children being able to take some of that home,” Castro said.
English Professor Claudio San Miguel wanted to know if the program will do more that just teach children how to pass the state exam when they reach third grade.
“We don’t want to replicate the state by creating an over-testing culture of students. The interests in the arts, music and all of that is going to be incorporated in the curriculum,” Castro said. “We don’t want to just focus in numbers but in their social development as well.”
San Miguel also wanted to know why the best teachers from the districts weren’t being approached to teach and build the curriculum for the initiative rather than teachers from other places.
Castro said, “I have no doubt that some teachers will come from the local school districts, but remember, like any good company we will be recruiting from other places even outside of Texas.”
Psychology freshman Josue Estrada was concerned about how the program will accommodate children with special needs.
“We want to make sure that we provide great education to all children, including special needs children,” Castro said. “We will work with the school districts to ensure that if a special needs child goes to the one of the centers, that child has their needs met so they can learn just as well as the others.”
Castro said the budget for the program has marketing dollars because one of the challenges is letting parents know about Pre-K 4 SA.
The Head Start program was funded with a federal approach and it cuts off at 100 percent poverty level. This initiative goes to 180 percent poverty level and is open to all families at very affordable scale price, Castro continued.
The last day for early voting is Friday, and the general election is Nov. 6.
For more information, contact Flores 207-8239 email@example.com visit www.SanAntonio.gov/prek.