The San Antonio City Council voted unanimously tonight to place Mayor Julián Castro's “Pre-K 4 SA” sales tax initiative on the November ballot. The Pre-K 4 SA proposal would expand full-day, high-quality Pre-K services to an additional 5,700 children. Currently, the state only covers enough expenses to provide half-day Pre-K. In order to be eligible under this program, students would have to meet at least one of the state's criteria by qualifying for free or reduced lunch, having limited English proficiency, being homeless, having been in foster care, or being children of active duty military or of those who have been wounded or killed in service.
We reported on the merits of Castro's plan last month because of the long-lasting impacts of investing in Pre-K. Participation in Pre-K has been linked to a 29 percent increase in graduate rates for at-risk youth, 41 percent reduction in placement in special education, and a 40 percent decrease in being held back in school.
Nine San Antonio state legislators addressed a letter to Mayor Castro to show support for the intiative, and seven ex-mayors endorsed the plan as well. The Bexar County delegation wrote:
“Research definitively shows that investing in high quality Pre-K for four-year-olds is proven to improve educational outcomes, beginning by ensuring that more children enter school prepared to succeed. Children in high-quality, full-day Pre-K are also more likely to read by third grade, graduate from high school, and enter college.”
By increasing the sales tax by 1/8-cent over the next eight years (costing the average family $7.81 per year), the city will be able to raise an estimated $31 million annually for the initiative.
Not a high price to pay to better prepare 5,700 kids to succeed. But the decision is now entirely in the hands of San Antonio voters.