When House Bill 4 was passed by the 84th Texas legislature in 2015, it was simultaneously applauded and criticized. The author of the bill, state Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, said he wanted “to make sure that we do the right thing for our little kids.” Governor Greg Abbott heralded the bill as a move toward advancing quality Pre-K education. Lawmakers championed the bill as a way to boost quality Pre-K programs. It did not seek to expand Pre-K to serve children who are not eligible under federal guidelines. The bill, they said, was to make sure quality Pre-K was offered, and provided $118 million in grants for school districts and charter schools that adopted new standards for Pre-K curriculum and teacher qualifications, as well as improving parental engagement and progress monitoring measures. Almost two years later - and with the Texas legislature heading into its 85th session - the grant is up for renewal, and without action by the legislature in the upcoming session, the funding will disappear, leaving districts across the state scrambling to maintain quality Pre-K programs with fewer resources. With this in mind, The Commit! Partnership (as part of a statewide effort commissioned by Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium, and in partnership with Texans Care for Children) took a deep dive into the data generated since the grant was funded. Specifically, Commit! analyzed HB4 participation and implementation in six districts in Dallas County - Dallas, DeSoto, Duncanville, Irving, Richardson and Mesquite ISDs - and one district in Collin County, McKinney ISD. These districts represent 321,053 students, 64 percent of Dallas County students (not including the students from McKinney ISD), and make up 6 percent of Texas students. Many of the schools participating said they applied for funding for a range of goals meant to enrich their existing Pre-K programs, including enhancing supports for their teachers and aides, strengthening their family engagement programs to equip parents with the ability to engage in learning with their child, and expand their programs to include some full-day options. But a program with an expiration date also caused districts to proceed with some caution. Districts expressed reluctance to use the funds to invest in long-term goals like program expansion or additional teachers for fear that later - if the legislature opted to let the program die either by vote or neglect - they would have to dial back those plans and reduce staffing later. For those same reasons, many did not use the grant funds to expand to a full-day program. In fact, one district (Duncanville ISD) even opted to decline the funds completely because of the insufficient funding for full-day Pre-K, and several opted to only add full-day programs in a few select schools. Make no mistake: high-quality Pre-K is absolutely imperative for Dallas County, and the legislature renewing HB4 will help school districts sustain new quality measures that have been implemented. This will also give additional time to measure the impact of the program in terms of student performance. The [...]
Since the start of the Dallas County Vroom pilot this past summer, over 35 organizations have committed to sharing the Vroom app, it’s resources, and the science behind early brain development with families. The latest research tells us that our brains develop more rapidly during the first five years of life than any other time. Vroom provides actionable tips that help children to develop positive adult-child relationships, communication skills, and executive function life skills like goal setting and critical thinking. Before the pilot began over 1,600 parents were surveyed and 1 in 5 parents did not believe “babies begin learning the moment they are born,” which indicates there is an awareness issue. Vroom informs parents that it is never too early to start building a child’s brain. In collaboration with the great work of partner organizations, is building awareness and adoption of brain building activities for young children. Read more about the reach of the Vroom Pilot in Dallas by visiting this Dallas Morning News article. Join our efforts in helping equip and empower caregivers to become brain builders for children around the County today! Visit joinvroom.org, download the "Daily Vroom" app, and share the importance of brain building activities with families! To learn more about the pilot please visit the Early Childhood Family Empowerment Action Network (ECFEAN) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.