This coming Tuesday, Nov. 6, Trinity students registered in San Antonio will vote on issues beyond electing the president. These voters also have the power to impact early childhood education throughout San Antonio.
The initiative Pre-K 4 SA will appear on the 2012 Bexar County ballots and is one of the most hotly contested issues currently in discussion. The Pre-K 4 SA program will formally appear as “Sales and Use Tax for the Pre-K 4 SA Early Childhood Education Program.”
The proposal would change the sales tax of San Antonio from 8.125 to 8.25 percent, which is the state cap in Texas. If approved by voters, the initiative would fund free full-day public preschool for qualifying four year olds. The tax increase would fund Pre-K 4 SA for eight years.
San Antonio Mayor Julià¡n Castro, who appeared in September at the Democratic National Convention, has said that he is “staking his tenure” on this program.
Currently, the state of Texas spends approximately $3,600 per Pre-K student each year. State Rep. Lyle Larson (R) is opposed to the plan because he believes that it will cost taxpayers three times the amount currently allocated per child.
Estimates show that about 5,700 children in San Antonio do not have access to a quality Pre-K education. The website for Pre-K 4 SA calls the movement an “investment in the children and future of San Antonio.” It references research that shows that students who attend worthwhile Pre-Ks are more likely to graduate from high school and later attend college.
Senior Harjot Dhillon, a Texas resident, said she plans to vote in support of Pre-K 4 SA.
“I figure early child development is extremely important. It will make a difference with ongoing education, and I am willing to give up that slight amount for four-year-olds in San Antonio,” Dhillon said.
Castro has backed the program with a $363,000 public relations campaign sponsored by local area businesses. In addition to providing full-day schooling, the money raised would also fund four educational “centers of excellence,” train local teachers and provide grants for schools to expand existing Pre-K programs. Opponents argue over the benefits of full-day schooling and resist increases in taxes.
Dhillon acknowledges the sacrifices Castro has made and supports the initiative partly because of the mayor.
“I would hate to see Julian Castro not in office,” said Dhillon. “I like what he’s been doing lately.”
In addition to Castro’s campaigning, former president Bill Clinton has appeared in San Antonio in support not only of President Obama, but also of the Pre-K 4 SA initiative.
Fellow senior Matthew Prendergast also voiced his support for the plan.
“Education is crucial, and Pre-K 4 SA is something I am in favor of,” Prendergast said.
Sara Sherwood, an adjunct professor in Trinity’s education department, wrote a passionate letter on the Pre-K 4 SA Facebook page on Tuesday, Oct. 16. In it, she acknowledged the impact Pre-K had on her own daughter’s development.
“In many ways, the role that my daughter’s pre-school experience played in preparing her for kindergarten is not surprising,” Sherwood said.
Sherwood opens by reflecting on her daughter’s kindergarten and Pre-K years. She points out the educational crisis in San Antonio and talks about the “quality of education city-wide.”
Other supporters of Pre-K 4 SA include H-E-B, General Don Cook of the U.S. Air Force, Joe Robles of USAA, Bill Greehey of NuStar Energy, Graham Weston of Rackspace and others. A complete list of sponsors can be found on the Pre-K 4 SA website: www.prek4sa.com.
Early voting in San Antonio continues up to Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 6. The polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.