On Nov. 6, San Antonio voters passed the Pre-K 4 SA initiative. The new plan promises to put tax dollars to work for young students.
Pre-K 4 SA is a program that passed during this year’s election with 54 percent of the vote. In its eight-year span, the program plans to aid 22,400 children who are attending pre-kindergarten for the first time while improving the current education system for schools throughout the city. Annually, the program will benefit 3,700 children, according to the initiative information guide.
Eligibility requirements include: “at or below 185 percent of federal poverty level; English as a second language; child of active duty member of U.S. Armed Forces; child of injured or deceased member of U.S. Armed Forces; homeless; currently or previously in foster care,” according to the city of San Antonio website.
As part of the plan, Pre-K 4 SA will administer training programs for teachers in grades pre-k through third grade. The goal of the initiative is to boost literacy rates throughout the city, according to the city of San Antonio’s website.
Parental involvement is a crucial component. Parents will be asked to participate in parent leadership and education classes. The purpose is to have the parent engaged in the program to ensure that their child is gaining a balanced education and is receiving help outside of the classroom, according to the plan’s website.
Rebecca Flores, the City of San Antonio’s education coordinator, said that the estimated sales tax rate per person will be $7.81 per year, which adds up to $31 million per year in taxes. The initiative also plans to use additional state and federal funds to aid the program. “The next step is creating a board of directors and getting leasing agreements to get it rolling,” Flores said.
The initiative plans to create four new facilities in different parts of the city to reach a wide demographic. City officials project to open facilities in the northwest and southeast areas of San Antonio next August.
According to the Pre-K 4 SA information guide, the initiative is an eight-year program, with the first three years consisting of a build-up in student enrollment. The next five years will be targeted toward full enrollment and program implementation.
On the night of the election, Mayor Julian Castro who spearheaded the Pre-K 4 SA initiative, said, “I want to thank everyone for their support for Pre-K 4 SA, which is a great investment for the children of San Antonio. I think San Antonians made the right decision tonight.”
Jolene Melendez, a mother and student at UTSA, said that she is impressed by the progress her daughter has shown since attending pre-k classes. “I think it is really beneficial. I see lots of students go each day and I get to see it first-hand everyday when she comes home. She’s really learning and I think it’s great to have for our city,” Melendez said.
“I feel at the rate that we’re going, that if we don’t support bills like this, then there would be a decline in education for kids and for our community. I think it’s important to start at a young age like this,” said Melendez. “I work at a day-care center and I think some people are afraid that it will cut their jobs and that’s ridiculous. People are forgetting what’s important here and it’s about the kids,” Melendez said.
The one-eighth of a cent sales tax will go into effect in April. If voters are satisfied with the progress of Pre-K 4 SA, they can vote to continue the program in 2020.