From the steps of City Hall Monday evening, the South Texas Alliance for Progress, San Antonio Family Association and San Antonio Tea Party gathered to share their views on why they give the Pre-K 4 SA initiative a failing grade.
The plan, which is on the November ballot, would increase sales tax one-eighth of a cent to fund full-day pre-k and create or renovate four pre-k centers throughout the city.
“If parents will read to their children for an hour a day, they will get as much benefit as they will from a full day of pre-k versus the half-day that is available in the school systems,” said John Kaplan, event coordinator with the San Antonio Tea Party.
The groups also argue that the initiative is a duplication of services already available and amounts to a government takeover of education.
Supporters of the plan say there are roughly 5,700 children in San Antonio who do not have access to quality pre-k.
“Hands down, there is just no better bang for your buck,” said Vanessa Lacoss Hurd, who is a member of the Brainpower Task Force that helped develop Pre-k 4 SA. “At four years old, you get unprecedented impact on brain development. You have an opportunity to change a child's trajectory.”
The opposing groups also have questions surrounding transportation for students. They believe some 4-year-olds that would be part of the program would be put on city buses.
During a public forum at St. Mary’s University last week, Mayor Julian Castro said transportation plans are still in the works, but that buses might be used to pick up students at locations central to the four newly-created pre-k centers.
Lacoss Hurd says the issue comes down to questions not just about the future of young children, but the future of San Antonio.
“Do we want to have more of our children graduating from high school and going on to college? Or do we want to continue to struggle with high dropout rates and getting people to fill some of the highly-skilled jobs in our city?” asked Lacoss Hurd.
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