'Pre-K 4 SA' Gets High Marks in Study of Urban Early Childhood Programs

The non profit institution CityHealth, which is part of the Beaumont and Kaiser Permanente Foundations, along with the National Institute for Early Education Research has studied early childhood education programs in forty major American cities, and says San Antonio's sales tax funded Pre-K 4 SA program is among the five most successful in the nation, with a 'Gold' rating, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Shelly Hearne, who heads CityHealth, says one key success of Pre-K 4 SA is reaching the entire community, something many similar programs have not been able to achieve.

"It has met the benchmark for accessibility," she says.  "Thirty percent of children in San Antonio, regardless of income, are enrolled in the Pre-K programs."

She counted kids who attend Pre-K 4 SA itself at the four learning centers, and the children who are enrolled in Pre-K programs through public and private school districts which are supported by Pre-K 4 SA.

She says more and more, a rigorous early childhood education will be known as one of the, if not the most significant measurement of a city's health, progress, and financial growth.  She says a good early childhood program leads directly to better outcomes in high school and college, as well as a larger income in adulthood.  As we move more into the knowledge-based economy of the future, the cities with successful Pre-K programs will become the places where the best paying and most important jobs will congregate.

"Having a quality program is critical to make sure you get those health outcomes, you get those strong lifetime earnings, and solid support for the population," she said.

The report says while many cities, including San Antonio, have pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) programs, many lack key quality benchmarks that deliver lasting benefits to children and communities.

There was one area where Pre-K 4 SA fell short on CityHealth's report card, and that is in ongoing continuing education for the teachers.

"Making sure that those teachers are involved in learning opportunities so they are keeping up with best practices," she said.  "You have gold today, but you want to stay that way."

Pre-K for SA is funded with a 1/8 of a cent sales tax which was approved by San Antonio voters in 2012.  It has become one of the centerpieces of Julian Castro's Presidential bid.

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