SAN ANTONIO -

A top state lawmaker filed a bill Monday that would provide full-day voluntary pre-kindergarten to eligible 4-year-olds at public schools across Texas.

Rep. Mike Villarreal filed HB 96 to provide state funding for the measure, which would build on San Antonio’s Pre-K 4 SA initiative approved by voters on Election Day.

"Providing a quality education to Texas schoolchildren should be our state's number one priority," said Villarreal. "Innovating and investing in education is the key to building our economy, growing the middle class, and fulfilling our obligation to the next generation. Extensive research shows that full-day Pre-K can make the difference between a child starting behind her classmates and falling further behind or putting a child on a path to succeed throughout her school career."

Research in Texas and other states shows that students who enroll in Pre-K have higher math and reading test scores in later grades and improved social and academic outcomes later in life.

Currently, the state school finance system pays for half-day Pre-K, leaving school districts to rely on local funding if they choose to provide full-day programs.

As part of the $5.4 billion in education cuts in 2011, the Texas Legislature eliminated $200 million in Pre-K grants, which had allowed local districts to expand Pre-K to a full day.

"Pre-L should be at the top of our list as we prioritize reversing the cuts that harmed our children's education the most," said Rep. Villarreal.

Under state law, 4-year-olds are eligible for public school Pre-K if they do not speak English; come from low-income families; have been in the foster care system; or have parents on active military duty.