Texas A&M System expands access to high-quality pre-K

The Texas A&M University System News Release image header. Office of Marketing Communications. 979-458-6023

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Three-year-olds and four-year olds across Texas soon will have better access to high-quality, pre-kindergarten education, thanks to a new partnership between the Texas Education Agency and The Texas A&M University System.

“Kids who start elementary school knowing how to write their own names and count to ten, start ready to succeed,” said John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. “And everyone knows that successful kids in Texas wind up attending Texas A&M University System schools in the long run.”

The new program develops pre-K partnerships across the state with participating school districts to provide more resources to improve the quality of public and private pre-K childcare programs. A pre-k partnership is a collaboration between a school district/charter school and a high-quality childcare program to provide care and education to eligible three- and four-year-old children.

“This not only provides high-quality teachers to pre-K programs across the state, but it also helps people get back to work and back in college by improving childcare options,” said Dr. James Hallmark, vice-chancellor of academic affairs for The Texas A&M University System. “As an added bonus, putting more kids in high-quality pre-K programs will also help boost enrollment in local school districts across the state, allowing some districts to lose fewer local tax dollars to recapture.”

These partnerships will expand access to high-quality care and learning for children throughout the state. Eligible childcare programs with new formal pre-k partnership classrooms may receive an award of up to $25,000 that can be used for start-up costs associated with a new pre-k partnership classroom.

The innovative effort already has been hailed as a welcome relief by superintendents still working to recover academically and financially from the negative effects of COVID. The new pilot program was made possible with a $2.4 million federal CARES Act grant awarded by the Texas Workforce Commission.

District leaders recognize the opportunity to increase enrollment while further supporting their communities need to have reliable, low-cost childcare for everyone. Partnerships with local childcare centers support those businesses hit the hardest over the past couple years and can serve as an excellent staff recruitment and retention tool for tackling educator shortage concerns.

These early childhood collaborations give districts like Lyford CISD, enrollment 1,410, new methods to deliver high quality childcare services to their community.  Lyford has created a district run childcare center blending Texas Rising Star classrooms, as well as partnering with the local Head Start to maximize funding for the district.  This allows all the children of Lyford access to high quality pre-K regardless of financial earnings.

San Vicente ISD, located in Big Bend National Park with a total enrollment of 7, has used the partnership to begin childcare services for the first time. Kenedy County-Wide School District, enrollment 101, has taken innovative steps to partner with childcare centers outside their district boundaries.  This innovative design can allow childcare centers to partner with school districts from other parts of the state to increase funding, and high-quality instruction.

Plemons-Stinnett- Phillips CISD, enrollment 568, has begun partnerships with the local education service center, as well as exploring an early childhood partnership with the Kids Kollege, the childcare center located on the West Texas A&M University campus.  These partnerships will provide high quality instruction and increase funding for the district as well as the childcare centers.

Riviera ISD, enrollment 481, is another district that is partnering outside its district boundaries and exploring innovative partnerships with Marc Cisneros Center for Young Children, the childcare center on the Texas A&M Kingsville campus.  These partnerships created will enable blending of funds to enhance learning environments for young students located at these centers.

Nacogdoches ISD has built an entire pre-k campus with 320 students, 130 of which were added through the partnerships created by the A&M System effort. With a total enrollment of 5,883, Nacogdoches ISD has worked to expand their partnership with a local Head Start recipient and has invited local private childcare centers to consider a partnership that includes dual enrollment with the district. By bringing all educational agencies together, Nacogdoches ISD is now able to offer high quality education to all its pre-k age students.

The new program helps local school districts access state and federal funding, and eases the administrative burden on childcare providers by developing contracts and helping with the required state reporting on the children served.

“The whole goal here is to expand the number of high-quality pre-K programs available and help those that already exists do what they do best — teach,” Sharp said.

To learn more about early childhood partnership opportunities contact:

Josh West Executive Director, Texas A&M University System for Academic Affairs at jwest@tamus.edu 830-534-3955

Kendra Wuest Executive Director, Texas A&M University System for Academic Affairs at kwuest@tamus.edu 830-534-8666

About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $7.2 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 152,000 students and makes more than 24 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help drive the state’s economy.

Contact: Laylan Copelin
Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6425
(512) 289-2782 cell

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