SAN ANTONIO – Children from one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods proudly showed off what they’ve learned through early Head Start at the Ella Austin Community Center.
Just two and three years old, the children enthusiastically recited their alphabet, numbers, months of the year and more, in English and Spanish. They also easily flexed their small fingers to form letters in sign language.
“We do this every day,” said their teacher, pointing out that one little boy had been in the program since he was six weeks old.
Dr. Robert Sanborn, president and CEO of the nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization Children at Risk said a report from the organization looked at early education in major Texas cities, from parenting and child care to pre-kinder.
Sanborn said although the report found quality child care is critical, “Low income kids are getting the short end of the stick.”
Sanborn said, “They’re not getting ready for pre-K programs or kindergarten the way they should be.”
He said funding for more programs like Head Start will be hard to come by during the state’s current budget crisis.
Sanborn said that’s where federal funds, school districts and cities like San Antonio can help.
Ana Acevedo, the city’s education policy administrator, said as an example, only 3- and 4-year-olds were enrolled at early Head Start in the San Antonio and Edgewood school districts.
“Recently we expanded that grant where we can actually start serving kids from 0 to 3 before they come into our 3-year-old program,” Acevedo said.
She said although Pre-K for SA is considered a national model, “How do we strengthen what’s happening from zero to 4 or 5, when they enter the public school system?”
Both Acevedo and Sanborn pointed out that even the youngest child is capable of learning a great deal as their brain develops.
Dr. Kathy Fletcher, president and CEO of Voices for Children of San Antonio said if the quality of early child care is improved going into pre-K and kindergarten, “We would make phenomenal strides in those children’s lives, in the quality of those children’s lives over their lifetimes.”