SAN ANTONIO – Pre-K 4 SA officials are hopeful that voters will reauthorize the sales tax that provides most of the program’s funding at the polls this spring.
The program runs four centers around San Antonio that offer free and reduced-price prekindergarten education. Its other components include professional development for educators and providing grants that support students in other programs.
More than three-quarters of Pre-K 4 SA’s annual funding comes from a 1/8 of a cent sales tax that voters first approved in 2012. That tax expires in June 2021, though. So the program’s board of directors is asking the San Antonio City Council to get the issue back onto the ballot this year for voters to decide whether to reauthorize the tax.
Though there are two elections in 2020, May and November, the board wants to get the reauthorization vote onto the former.
Appearing before the city council on Wednesday, board chairwoman Elaine Mendoza gave several reasons for the board’s preference, including the following: the May ballot will have other education-related items on it, the issue would appear more prominently there than on the weightier November ballot and resolving the funding question earlier would reassure staff members.
“If we wait until November, a lot of our great educators that we have in our centers start questioning,” Mendoza said. “It’s a roll of the dice.”
Mendoza and CEO Dr. Sarah Baray say the program has had an excellent start.
“Our independent evaluation shows that children enter Pre-K 4 SA below the national norm, and they leave us well above the national norm, which means that they are more than ready for kindergarten,” Baray said.
Pre-K 4 SA officials say they plan to expand access to prekindergarten for 3,000 families through its centers and at partner programs. These families are ones who wouldn’t normally qualify to attend prekindergarten for free, but who also would likely not be able to pay for it on their own.
“It will ensure that there’s access for every family that can’t afford it,” Baray said. “And so this way we would expand to serve those middle class families that right now are left out of the system.”
The council appears on track to get the issue onto the May ballot, with several members praising the program.
District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry voiced some concerns, though.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to be up to the voters whether they want to continue to fund an additional school system with their city tax dollars versus letting the state take on that burden,” Perry said.