Pre-Kindergarten Funding to Change

Mrs. Fogo shows her pre-Kindergarten classroom a picture of a rabbit.

"What is this,"she asked the group of three-year olds. "A bunny? What's another name for a bunny?"

"Rabbit!" they responded excitedly.

Mrs. Fogo's class at Hereford's Stanton Learning Center is one of 9 pre-K programs funded by federal grant money. But lawmakers are proposing changes to the existing pre-Kindergarten Expansion Grant. These changes could shift money from schools that currently receive the funds to those that do not.

Hereford ISD received more than $250,000 this school year. But next year they could have to make some adjustments.

"This program is critical to the expectations we have of them," Principal Susan Robbins said. "But expectations without support is setting them up for failure. And that's wrong."

Four other areas schools could also lose money if the proposal passes. And there is a possibility that they could be left out completely.

Highland Park ISD currently receives $90,000 the fund. According to the TEA, programs at Highland Park may only receive a maximum $57,600 for the 2009 fiscal year.  Superintendent Bill Mayfield said $33,400 is a drastic reduction.

"If we don't get it, it would hurts us," Mayfield said. "But the Board wants to continue with the pre-K program if all possible."

Struggling school districts in our area, however, could benefit from the changes. Many could soon have more money to better the education of their youngest students.

Under the changes, proposed by the TEA, low performing schools would receive guaranteed funding from the federal grant.

The Head Start program in Dimmitt has never received money from the grant. But next year, Dimmitt ISD could qualify for $60,000.

"The money could be used to hire a teacher and a teacher's assistant," Superintendent Les Miller said."We could also add another section, which holds 17 children."

The amount each school could receive is based on enrollment, academic acheivement and past involvement with the program.

Proposed changes under review until Monday, Dec 1.

Under the new provisions, districts would be divided into three seperate groups.

Tier 1 Districts have never received funds from the program, or have not participated in years, and are scoring at or below state average on the TAKS. This group would be guaranteed a $900 grant per child, with a maximum allotted amount of $5 million per year for 5 years.

In our area: Borger ISD, Bovina ISD, Dimmitt ISD, Dumas ISD, Friona ISD, Hart ISD, Hartley ISD, Memphis ISD, Miami ISD, Pampa ISD, Perryton ISD, River Road ISD, Shamrock ISD, Spearman ISD, and Tulia ISD.

Tier 2 Districts currently receive pre-K money and are performing at or above state average on TAKS. But this group would have to compete with other districts for a share of the grant money. The maximum any district could receive is $1 million per year for 3 years.

Booker ISD and Childress ISD are part of this group.

Tier 3 Districts currently receive money from the fund, also. These districts are at or below state average on TAKS. Grants for these districts would be competive, each with a maximum $5 million per year for 2 years.

Hereford ISD, Highland Park ISD, Sunray ISD and Wheeler ISD fall in this category.