Brief: Access to Pre-Kindergarten Programs

February 22, 2019

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A Catholic perspective:

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB) supports parents having the option of enrolling their children in Pre-Kindergarten (PK) and before- or after-school child care. The roots of this position can be found in the Catholic tradition’s perspective on the proper role of parents, whose respect and affection for their children are expressed in the care and attention they devote to providing for their physical and spiritual needs. As St. John Paull II wrote, parents’ natural care and attention is critical:

Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. For it devolves on parents to create a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and others that a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children. Hence, the family is the first school of those social virtues which every society needs.

Education and care of children are the primary duty and right of parents.[1] Through their care, parents commit themselves to a common good, which is an end that is good both for themselves and their family.

As applied to early childhood education, it is true that the loving relationship of parents for their children cannot be delegated, but PK teachers ennoble the education profession when they mirror the care of a parent by teaching children kindness, goodness, service, and self-sacrifice. Such teachers support parents and help them fulfill their obligations. For these reasons, the TCCB supports the state’s, school districts’ and private schools’ efforts to offer parents the option of enrolling their children in high-quality PK and before- or after-school child care.[2]

[1] Catechism #2228, 2221-2.; John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio [On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World] November 22, 1981. § 36.

[2] Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia [On Love in the Family], March 19, 2016. § 83-84.

Through their care, parents commit
themselves to a common good, which
is an end that is good both for
themselves and their family.

Texas law and policy:

Texas law and policy: In the 2017-18 school year, 7,000 Texas children were enrolled in PK programs in Catholic schools, while 232,177 were enrolled in public school PK.[3] School districts are required to offer a PK program if they identify more than 14 eligible children, and they must also notify eligible families of the availability of their programs in both English and Spanish. To be eligible, a child must be at least four years old by September 1 of the current school year, and meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • be unable to speak or comprehend English,
  • be educationally disadvantaged,
  • be homeless,
  • be the child of active duty military or a member of the armed forces who was injured or killed in service,
  • be in the conservatorship of the Department of Child Protective Services,
  • be the child of a Star of Texas Award recipient.[4]

Figure 1 illustrates the early education and PK enrollment trend in public schools since 2011; in the 2018-19 school year 23,998 students were enrolled in early education while 232,177 were enrolled in PK.[5]

However, early childhood education is not always accessible, especially for low-income and non-English speaking students, which contributes to poor academic outcomes.[6] In 2017, the Texas legislature recognized the need to improve public school funding and established a Commission to recommend improvements. We support the Commission’s proposals affecting PK, including:

  1. Public schools should receive additional funding for every student in Kindergarten through third grade who is low-income or an English language learner (ELL).
  2. The state should provide outcomes-based funding targeting grades PK – 3. For example, public schools may receive an additional $3,400 for every low-income student achieving third grade reading proficiency and $1,450 for every non-low-income student achieving proficiency. The additional funding per student would increase up to the maximum amount based on a campus’s concentration of low-income students.
  3. The state should allow public school teachers’ three- and four-year-old children to attend free full-day PK.[7]


[3] Texas Education Agency, Enrollment in Texas Public Schools 2017-18. 15. Another 24,000 children are enrolled in early childhood education programs in a public school.

[4] Texas Edu. Code Ch. 29.153. cf. 85 RS HB 357; 80 RS SB 758; 79 3CS HB 1.

[5] Texas Education Agency, PEIMS Standard Reports: Student Enrollment Reports. (1990-2018)

[6] Texas Commission on Public School Finance, Funding for Impact: Equitable Funding for Students Who Need It the Most, December 31, 2018. 64-65, 11.

[7] Ibid. 132-3.

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