San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

COVER: Pre-school students play an educational game at the Children’s Learning Center at Texas A&M at Commerce in June. PHOTO VIA FLICKR

by MORGAN SMITH

Texas will not receive a share of $250 million in federal funding marked to help states expand preschool programs, the U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday.

Among 35 states that applied for competitive grants available through the Obama administration’s Preschool for All initiative, Texas was eligible to receive up to $30 million annually over a four-year period if it had been selected.

The money is part of the $1 billion in early education funding the president is set to announce Wednesday. That figure includes $500 million in federal dollars for Early Head Start and child care programs and $330 million in private money from corporations and philanthropic foundations.

Texas’ high class-size ratio — twice the recommended 10-to-1 child to instructional staff ratio — was among the areas federal reviewers dinged when examining the state’s application, according to documents from the U.S. Department of Education. About half of the states that applied for the grants received funds.

When the state applied for the grant in October, Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams said the money presented an opportunity to build on the success of existing programs in the state. Such programs pay for half-day preschool for students from low-income, non-English-speaking or military families.

In a statement released Wednesday after the announcement, Williams said the state had identified high-need communities in 15 counties that would have received funds through the federal grant.

“The federal government’s decision, while disappointing, does not take away from our state’s belief in the value of high quality prekindergarten programs,” he said, adding that he looked forward to working on state-level initiatives with Gov.-elect Greg Abbott and state lawmakers.

Abbott, who will take office Jan. 20, said he planned to make early education a top policy priority at a Monday news conference.

“I want to ensure that all children finish the third grade reading and doing math at or above grade level,” he said.

MORGAN SMITH reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

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