by Richard Slife
This is an update to last week’s article, “S.A. Streetcar a Losing Proposition” (full text follows below).
What: South Texas Alliance for Progress Press Conference on San Antonio Streetcar Funding Swap
When: Monday, January 27, 2013 at 12:30 PM
Where: VIA Offices at 1021 San Pedro Ave, San Antonio 78212
Point of Contact: George Rodriguez, 210-367-2058
The South Texas Alliance for Progress will hold a press conference at 12:30 PM on Monday, January 27th, at the VIA Metropolitan Transit Offices located at 1021 San Pedro.
The purpose of the press conference is to detail the reasons why the Metopolitan Planning Organization (MPO) should reject the proposed swap of Advanced Transportation District (ATD) funds with Texas Dept. of Transportation (TxDot) funds for the VIA streetcar project.
Our elected officials have been mesmerized by feel-good stories about a streetcar that voters do not want. Officials are so focused on providing funds for construction that voters cannot stop, they have not bothered to look at the future costs of operation. Every entrepreneur knows that prior to investing his capital he wants to see an assessment of the expected return on his investment. But then entrepreneurs are investing their money.
City Council bowed to pressure from the business community and voted to eliminate the special assessment district included in the 2011 ordinance committing the city to the streetcar project. This provision was designed to raise $15 million from the property owners who would benefit from the increased property values produced by the streetcar, and who had already received $17.5 million in tax incentives.
The value that property owners place on the streetcar can be measured by their reaction to this special assessment district. As WOAI reported, “Wording on a city memo reads ‘private sector support amongst downtown businesses does not exist at this time.’” Randall O’Toole of the CATO Institute pointed out in his policy brief, “The Streetcar Fantasy,” that “streetcars do not produce transit oriented development.” The development is there because of tax incentives.
Since no elected official has asked about the impact of the streetcar on VIA’s future financial health, the South Texas Alliance for Progress has provided the council with an analysis. VIA’s 2011 financial statement documents 75 percent of VIA’s bus operating costs are covered by tax subsidies, and VIA still had to reduce its reserves by $13.9 million to balance the books. VIA’s bus operations are not financially viable with the current subsidy, and residents can look for VIA to plead for more tax dollars in the future.
It is on this financially sick organization officials plan to overlay the streetcar. In “The Streetcar Fantasy,” O’Toole documents “transit agencies spend anywhere from 2 to 8 times as much moving passengers one mile by streetcar as by bus.”
VIA’s financial analysis indicates the streetcar will lose $22.7 million in the first five years with the yearly loss increasing each year after the start-up year. But there is another cost transit advocates hide: infrastructure repairs. Cities with older rail systems typically spend $1 on major repairs for every $2 they spend on operations. So as the system ages, costs will increase
Absent a thorough five-year pro forma financial assessment, one can only conclude that VIA will need a massive increase in tax subsidies. But our officials have turned a blind eye to this issue.
What will it take for our leaders to realize the streetcar is a reprise of the Alamodome? Back then politicians also focused on the good news and did not consider future costs of operation that still suck up tax dollars. San Antonio has an effective bus system, and politicians should not jeopardize its operation by bolting a streetcar system onto it.
by Jim Forsyth
[Editor's note: Reposted from a January 8th WOAI Local News article. CLICK HERE to read the original. As a postscript to information reported below, the San Antonio City Council voted 8-3 to approve budgetary changes to the streetcar project. Those voting no: Williams, Chan, and Soules.]
Downtown businesses have pulled their support for that very controversial downtown streetcar project, which means San Antonio City Council will rubber stamp the proposal on Thursday with the taxpayer picking up the entire $187 million tab, 1200 WOAI news reports.
The original streetcar proposal, which was approved by City Council in October of 2011, called for a Special Assessment District and/or private sector contributions of $15 million toward building the streetcar. That would be made up of downtown businesses which are the entities which the streetcar is being built to support, according to streetcar backers.
But documents obtained by 1200 WOAI news show that the private sector has pulled its support. In fact, wording on a city memo reads ‘private sector support amongst downtown businesses does not exist at this time.’
But, unlike downtown businesses, taxpayers don’t have the ability to pull their support. So the new proposal to be voted on by council on Thursday calls for the entire $187 million cost to be borne solely by the taxpayers. The City of San Antonio will now kick in $32 million in cash and $8 million in ‘in-kind capital improvements associated with the 2007 bond program savings allocated to South Alamo Street improvement.’ In addition, Bexar County has committed $55 million, and Via Metro Transit will also pick up some of the tab, including the $15 million in ‘non city funds’ which was originally going to be paid by the private sector.
The city says it would continue to attempt to get the private sector on board, but doing so would delay the timetable for the project, and the process of creating a Special Assessment District to directly tax downtown businesses ‘would take several months.’
The plan is to begin planning for the streetcar this summer. The design stage is anticipated to begin in the fall of 2013 and last through 2014. Streetcar construction is expected to start in 2015 and is anticipated to be completed by 2017.
City officials know how wildly unpopular with the taxpayers who are now being forced to pay for all of it that the streetcar is. In fact, the city felt obligated to write on the home page of its web site pushing the bond issue that was approved last May, “NO 2012-2017 BOND DOLLARS OR PROJECTS RECOMMENDED FOR VIA STREETCAR PROGRAM.’ City officials knew that even the hint that some of the money from the bond might go to the despised streetcar plan would be enough to sink the entire bond issue. Supporters of the bond issue repeated at every public meeting that no money would go to the streetcar plan.
Despite all this, the plan to force taxpayers, without any sort of vote or meaningful public impact, to pay $187 million for a streetcar they don’t want, will be rubber stamped by City Council on Thursday.
by Jill C. Thrift, Ph.D.
Editor’s note: Dr. Jill Thrift is an early-childhood educator with 40 years experience and a native of San Antonio. She began teaching four-year-olds in Edgewood Independent School District, at a federally funded bilingual preschool, when the district ranked as the poorest in the state. She has a doctoral degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Texas-Austin and has served on the faculty of the University of Houston, the University of Texas-San Antonio, and the University of Texas Health Science Center-San Antonio. Currently, she is an early childhood education consultant in San Antonio. Her research, reprinted here with her permission, is published and distributed by The Heartland Institute, a nonprofit and nonpartisan public policy research organization. Nothing in this report should be construed as reflecting the views of The Heartland Institute, nor as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of legislation. Additional copies of this Policy Brief are available for $6.95 from The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive #2740, Chicago, IL 60606; phone 312/377-4000; fax 312/377-5000; email email@example.com; Web http://www.heartland.org.
On November 6, San Antonio voters will decide whether to increase their sales tax by 1/8th cent to generate $280 million over a period of eight years. Revenue from the tax increase would fund a new city educational corporation. The city council would appoint the executive director and board of directors for the corporation, which would be accountable to the city manager.
Summary of the Plan
The city reports that San Antonio is home to 16,500 children eligible for Texas pre-kindergarten funding. Of these, 10,800 are currently enrolled in full-day pre-K and 3,400 are enrolled in half-day pre-K, totaling 14,200 children currently enrolled. Children and districts become eligible for state-funded pre-K when they live in low-income or non-native-English-speaking households. The city proposes to provide full-day pre-K for the 3,400 children currently enrolled in half-day, and full-day pre-K for the 2,300 children who are eligible but not currently enrolled in any pre-K. The plan projects that during the first year 700 children would receive full-day services. That figure would increase to 1,500 in year two, and then to 3,700 in years four through eight. Of these, 1,390 children who do not fall within the state eligibility guidelines would be provided pre-K subsidies on a sliding scale.
Beyond expanding pre-K services to young children, the proposed program would train a group of pre-K teachers in “innovative” teaching and assessment strategies demonstrated at four “Centers of Excellence” (model centers) to pre-K teachers of partner providers (school districts, charter schools, private schools, and community programs). The curricula would focus on language, math, and literacy. Four distinct curricula would be adopted in four model education centers centrally located in four quadrants of the city. Children are to be bused to these locations. The city corporation would contract with an independent evaluator to assess the program’s effectiveness. Measuring student outcomes would take place at three intervals, comparing the performance in language, math, and literacy of students at the model centers with that of pre-K students who did not attend the model centers. Academic goals for the program include: – “Achievement gaps reduced by at least 25% in Language, 33% in Math, and 90% in literacy when compared to Kindergarten students who did not attend the Education Centers; – “By 3rd grade, students from the Education Excellent Centers should have closed the achievement gap by at least 10% on the STAAR reading and math assessments; [and] – “20% to 40% reduction in special education placement and grade retention.”
A lottery would select student applicants to attend the model centers. Participating parents would sign a contract. They would be required to read to their children 20 minutes a day and to ensure their child’s perfect attendance. Parents who do not comply will be asked to leave the program. Family outreach would include support services, parenting classes, education classes, and fatherhood initiatives.
Educational Reasons to Oppose the Plan
This plan makes important assumptions that have not been tested about what is good for young children and families, including many that educational and developmental research do not support. Although there are many reasons to question the wisdom of this proposal, this report focuses on only seven.
To continue reading Dr. Thrift’s paper, CLICK HERE.
by James Golsan & Jeff Judson
Editor’s note: The following is a policy brief of the Texas Public Policy Foundation and is reprinted with the permission of the authors. Mr. Golsan is an education policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. He joined the Foundation’s Center for Education Policy in October 2010 and contributes to the following issues: K-12 education growth; higher education spending; and increasing spending transparency across academia. Mr. Judson is a public policy consultant providing tactical and strategic communications planning, legislative strategy, national coalition-building, and government affairs. He is the former president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Judson is currently a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute. The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute. The Foundation’s mission is to promote and defend liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise in Texas and the nation by educating and affecting policymakers and the Texas public policy debate with academically sound research and outreach. Funded by thousands of individuals, foundations, and corporations, the Foundation does not accept government funds or contributions to influence the outcomes of its research. The public is demanding a different direction for their government, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation is providing the ideas that enable policymakers to chart that new course.
The city of San Antonio has joined the debate over pre-kindergarten education as it seeks to enact a new sales tax for the creation of all-day early childhood education for four-your-old children. While cities are generally prohibited from providing the public education function reserved to public school districts, they are permitted to engage in “early childhood development that prepare each child to enter school.”
The hope with pre-kindergarten and other early childhood readiness programs is that not only will they prepare participating students for participation in kindergarten, but that they will also have a lasting impact on these students, extending all the way through high school. However, research examining pre-kindergarten’s long-term benefits shows mixed results at best. After examining the current research on the benefits and limitations of public pre-kindergarten programs, as well as some specifics of the San Antonio proposal, we conclude that expanded pre-kindergarten under this initiative does not represent a sound academic and fiscal investment.
Pre-K’s Short-term Gains
Pre-kindergarten appears to have positive results when it comes to academic gains for students in grades K-3, especially on children who have special needs. As noted in a 2008 study, “Many early interventions have had meaningful short-term effects on grade-level retention and special education placement.”
Short-term gains have also been demonstrated by numerous studies of larger, state-based pre-kindergarten programs:
Georgia: 82 percent of former participants in the state’s universal pre-kindergarten program had higher scores on third grade readiness, compared with those who did not participate in the program (Henry, Gordon, Mashburn and Ponder 2001).
South Carolina: A state-funded pre-kindergarten program reaching about 30 percent of 4 year-olds has improved rates of school readiness since its launch in 1984 (Denton 1999). Prior to inception of the program, 60 percent of children were deemed ready for first grade. By 1998, the figure had reached 81 percent.
Maryland: The state’s Extended Elementary pre-kindergarten program has reduced special education placements and grade retentions in elementary school (Denton 1999).
The research shows that pre-kindergarten can improve kindergarten readiness and potentially enhance academic performance in the lower grades, particularly if the program in question runs continuously (i.e., it is not just a pre-kindergarten school, but rather one that takes a child from pre-kindergarten through at least the early elementary grade levels). However, once a student clears the lower grade levels, the research showing the benefits of pre-kindergarten becomes far less conclusive.
The Fade-out Effect
Pre-kindergarten has been shown to have a limited impact beyond third grade. This is typically referred to as “the fade-out effect,” and it is extremely important in the discussion of pre-kindergarten effectiveness, as well as the effectiveness of general early childhood learning:
Many early interventions have had meaningful short-term effects on grade-level retention and special education placement. However, the effects of early interventions routinely disappear after children leave the programs. The phenomenon known as “fade out” is important because it means that early schooling may be immaterial to a child’s later school performance, or that the current school system as structured is unable to sustain those early gains.
Another indicator of a lack of long-term effectiveness with pre-kindergarten is that since the late 60s and early 70s, when pre-kindergarten began to be widely used in the United States, over-all academic performance of our students has failed to improve. In 1965, only 16 percent of American 4 year-olds attended pre-kindergarten.5 By 2005, that number had jumped to 70 percent. During approximately the same time period, measurable improvement in U.S. average 4th grade N.A.E.P. scores has been minimal; reading scores, in particular, are virtually stagnant. With as much increased participation in pre-kindergarten as we have seen during the above stretch, one would expect to see an improvement in early academic performance if pre-kindergarten programs were having a definitively positive academic impact. As it stands, our flat lined early childhood performance, coupled with the fact that our students test worse at the 8th grade level, and still worse again in high school, seriously calls into question the long-term impact of pre-kindergarten programs.
Impact on Socialization
While the academic benefits of pre-kindergarten are mixed, some researchers have suggested that the socializing that takes place in pre-kindergarten might have a negative impact on children as they enter kindergarten and the lower grades. This is most noticeable in what we would consider to be “mainstream,” or non-special education, students.
David Elkind, a professor at Tufts University, has done several studies on the impact of pre-kindergarten programs. He asserted that exposing children to academic instruction too early risks permanently damaging their self-esteem for no apparent gain. He concluded that there “… is no evidence that such early instruction has lasting benefits and considerable evidence that it can do lasting harm … If we do not wake up to the potential danger of these harmful practices, we may do serious damage to a large segment of the next generation …”
Other research supports Dr. Elkind’s claims. A study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that children who spent more time in non-maternal childcare exhibited more behavioral problems than children who spent less time in childcare. A 2006 study by Stanford and the University of California found that “attendance in preschool centers, even for short periods of time each week, hinders the rate at which young children develop social skills and display the motivation to engage in class tasks, as reported by their kindergarten teachers.” Children who had attended preschool were more likely to exhibit aggression and bullying behaviors, and to show a lack of cooperation and self-control.
The San Antonio Pre-kindergarten Initiative
In November, residents of San Antonio will vote on a bond initiative to increase local sales taxes by one-eighth of a cent to fund four large pre-kindergarten centers. In addition to the questionable long-term benefits of pre-kindergarten programs, other concerns about the San Antonio program include its expense and the duplication of efforts. Proponents of the plan claim the tax will cost taxpayers more than $248 million over nine years, although it could cost a great deal more than that if annual sales tax revenue exceeds their projected 3 percent rise per year (over the last 8 years, sales tax revenue has increased by an average of 6 percent annually).
Per student spending at the pre-kindergarten centers will be around $15,500 per student. This is much higher than the cost of tuition at many of the city’s largest private schools, and more than $4,000 above what the state spends on average per pupil. That’s a substantial amount of money, particularly when taking into account how readily available pre-kindergarten in Texas is. In 2006, 60 percent of all Texas 4 year-olds attended some form of public preschool. As of 2008, when incorporating private care programs, that number came to around 85 percent. Hundreds of publicly funded or privately operated pre-kindergarten facilities serve children in San Antonio today, and there is no demonstrated lack of capacity requiring a new city-run education initiative that duplicates existing programs.
There are other concerns with the San Antonio approach. The city has yet to address transportation concerns for parents who live a long way from the centers; the location of the centers has not been determined, and the city does not intend to confirm the number of school districts participating necessary to make the program function at projected levels of student enrollment and cost effectiveness until after the election. The curriculum for the pre-kindergarten program has not been determined, nor has the testing or accountability system that will provide feedback on the program’s success. Given the novelty of a Texas city being involved in the delivery of public education instruction, these details should be explained before voters are asked to approve funding.
A final concern to consider is that if San Antonio passes this sales tax increase, the revenue could be used for multiple purposes not associated with pre-kindergarten. The ballot initiative creates a municipal corporation that is clearly not limited to the pre-kindergarten programs described to voters, but can expand into after school programs, job training, in-training support service grants, college scholarships and grants, the promotion of literacy, and “any other undertaking that the board determines will directly facilitate the development of a skilled workforce.”
In determining whether this is the best path for them, the city must understand that they’re making a substantial financial investment that will return the questionable dividend of limited academic benefits for a limited number of students.
When considering a public pre-kindergarten program’s effectiveness, one must consider whether such a program is a sound use of public monies. This means taking into account not just the potential early gains for lower income and special needs students, but also the limited academic gains in the long term and potential social detriment to middle class children. In addition to these concerns that are common to all pre-kindergarten programs, the San Antonio initiative raises multiple other concerns about its effectiveness and the wise use of taxpayer dollars. For Texas, where there is already widespread public pre-kindergarten and numerous private pre-kindergarten options available, the research indicates that the San Antonio pre-kindergarten initiative would be a poor investment of taxpayer funds.
Point 1. You can be against the proposal without being against kids.
1.1 Some voters question the propriety of the proposal, others the priority, still others the mechanics.
Point 2. Pre-K Education is NOT the role, responsibility, or expertise of City Government.
2.1 This puts the City in direct competition with School Districts.
2.2 School Districts did not request nor invite the City to become their “partner” in education.
2.3 They say there are 2300 four-year olds who qualify for current Pre-K but are not enrolled. However, nobody knows their names or where they live. There is neither a known way or plan to reach them. Hence this proposal ends up being a way for 3400 students already enrolled in half-day Pre-K to go to full-day AND for the city to become DIRECTLY involved in education.
2.4 Do you think the city can do a better job than our school districts?
Point 3. It hurts existing School Districts financially.
3.1 An ISD will lose money for every student in the city’s program. Thus the proposed program will NEVER be “cost neutral” to them.
3.2 ISD’s won’t be able to match the starting salaries of the city’s program. They may lose some of their best teachers who leave for the higher salary.
Point 4. It’s bad for seniors.
4.1 Closed Senior Centers could be reopened with a fraction of the quarter BILLION dollars. Additional closures could be prevented.
4.2 A lot of sidewalks where seniors walk could be constructed and upgraded with less than half of this money.
4.3 If the quarter BILLION dollars is ALL spent on Pre-K, seniors will just be waiting that much longer to have their felt needs met. School districts aren’t going to build sidewalks where seniors walk or reopen Senior Centers that have been closed.
Point 5. There are issues for parents.
5.1 Parents and citizens vote for local ISD Boards of Education as well as the State Board of Education. Thus they have persons to hold accountable for how their children are taught. Who can they hold accountable in the City’s program? How?
5.2 Parents have the primary responsibility of teaching their children, but the city’s proposal allows for virtually zero parent voice in critical aspects of the program.
5.3 Which parents will be willing and able to give required personal time and energy so their students can be enrolled in the proposed program? The answer is the ones who care now, which means their students would be successful in existing Pre-K programs anyway, so this one is not necessary.
5.4 If a parent doesn’t fulfill their commitment, someone from the corporation WILL contact them, perhaps even knock on their door.
5.5 What will the consequences be for those who can’t fulfill their contract?
Point 6. It could be traumatic for 4-year-olds.
6.1 Who will comfort the crying 4-year-old as she’s riding a VIA bus halfway across the city?
6.2 The bonding opportunity of half of the school day will be forfeited.
Point 7. The tracking system will be vulnerable to violation of confidentiality. The city may be liable when lawsuits are filed.
7.1 How will a student’s identity be protected?
7.2 The Department of Education promised states in the “Race to the Top” that individual students would not be identified in the tracking, but it turns out that they are. This could happen here.
7.3 The proposal calls for extensive and frequent testing, not only of Pre-K students, but their cohorts K-3rd grade, so that the Pre-K students can be compared to the performance of students who did not have Pre-K.
Point 8. The program is extravagantly expensive.
8.1 The effective cost per student for this full-day program ($11,075) is 3 TIMES! that of the current state allotment estimate ($3,650) for half-day Pre-K.
8.2 Tracking was so expensive for states that contracted to accept “Race to the Top” funds that they couldn’t afford it. The national funds did not cover tracking student progress.
Point 9. What happens if there is a shortfall of the projected income?
9.1 Will the City budget provide the deficit?
Point 10. The depth of the support for the proposal is suspect.
10.1 When respected business leaders and former officials were asked, “Do you think Pre-K is a good idea?” what could they say without sounding like a Grinch?
10.2 It’s very difficult to believe they considered the points presented in this paper and concluded the proposed program was worthy of their endorsement and financial support. And, if these points were NOT presented to them, that would not only be unfortunate but unscrupulous and disrespectful in taking advantage of their good name.
10.3 If they had been given a list of five programs and asked “Do you believe Pre-K is the BEST use of the entire quarter BILLION dollars?,” would their response have been an unqualified “Yes!”?
10.4 If each City Council member was given $2.6 million a year for the next eight years with freedom to utilize it in their district, how many would give the entire amount to the proposed Pre-K program all eight years? None of them would. Their constituents would replace them. Their constituents also want sidewalks and repaired streets and unshuttered Senior Centers and more computers in public libraries.
10.5 Would the businessmen in favor of the proposal contribute a million dollars of their own company’s money annually for the next eight years? That would be a better indicator of rock-solid support for the program.
Point 11. The Task Force and City Government have missed out on an education program that is far superior to the one proposed.
11.1 The pronounced objectives of the Task Force are to increase the graduation rate and upgrade the work force.
11.2 An already proven turn-key program is available.
11.3 It prepares students from UNDERSERVED communities and from LOW INCOME backgrounds in the Rio Grande Valley for success in college and citizenship.
11.4 95% of all students met the TAKS standard.
11.5 Two-thirds of its graduates are FIRST-GENERATION college students.
11.6 It promotes the core values of closing the achievement gap, no excuses, whatever it takes, 100% every day, sweating the small stuff, team and family.
11.7 Businesses will snatch up graduates with those core values and educational performance.
11.8 The Carver Academy in San Antonio launched this program (IDEA) last month.
Point 12. The proposal is vague with numerous unanswered questions.
12.1 It has been rushed in order to get it on the ballot in November.
12.2 The report itself admits that several items have not been worked out including curriculum and transportation.
12.3 If a proposed expansion to a refinery or a proposal for a new plus store were as vague as this, would the CEO sign off on it or would he fire the one who put the proposal forward?
12.4 After eight years, the graduation rate will be ZERO! (Year one students would have just finished sixth grade. It will take 14 years to know the graduation rate.)
12.5 Where will current policy-makers be 14 years from now?
Point 13. City Government has not done the due diligence of asking, “What felt needs could best be addressed with this quarter BILLION dollars?”
13.1 This comes across as another instance where the “policy-makers” know better than the constituents. It is reminiscent of Durango Street, Domestic Partner Benefits and “Corpus Christi.” It may well foreshadow street cars or “Light Rail.”
13.2 The proposal has not had the benefit of solid public debate with points to consider being put forward pro and con.
13.3 Equitable input from ordinary citizens not on the Task Force was not deemed necessary or critical before pushing the proposal to the ballot.
Point 14. Is it wise to tie up a quarter BILLION dollars for the next eight years?
14.1 A more flexible plan could allow for more needs to be met for more citizens, such as reopening Senior Centers, constructing additional sidewalks, doubling the number of computers in public libraries, and boosting support for programs that work extensively with middle school ages.
by Ken Mercer
Editor’s note: Ken Mercer (R – Bexar) is a current Member of the State Board of Education and a former State Representative. The following statement was submitted to the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board on September 21st but was never published, so it is reprinted here from his email newsletter, dated October 10th.
We working Americans are in the fourth year of a major recession and according to some experts, perhaps the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression. Every taxpaying parent can share stories of the numerous tough cuts and personal sacrifices they are making for their precious children.
Knowing how tenuous our present economy is, our San Antonio City Council believes now is a great time for a brand new $31 million dollar annual tax. That initiative will be on our November 2012 ballot as:
SALES AND USE TAX FOR THE “PRE-K 4 SA”
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION PROGRAM
O For O Against
After one year of operation, the Council estimates $30.5 million in new taxpayer “revenue” to provide Pre-K for 700 four-year-olds (Source: City Manager’s Office Program Budget). That is a whopping $43,500 per child.
St. Mary’s Hall (www.smhall.org), one of the most recognized private schools in San Antonio, costs $11,360 per Pre-K student.
In contrast, the City Council predicts that after three years, the total number of children served in its Pre-K program will be 3,900. The published Program Budget expects the new tax revenue for those three years to surpass $100 million.
The Council’s plan calls for the starting salary for its Pre-K teachers to be at least $60K. That is $12K per year more than our local school districts pay beginning high school educators to teach calculus, chemistry, or physics.
Texans understand the benefits of Pre-K. The Texas Education Code section 29.153 requires that school districts “shall offer prekindergarten classes if the district identifies 15 or more children” at least four years of age who are eligible.
The Texas Education Code defines eligible children as meeting one of these criteria: (1) unable to speak and comprehend the English language; (2) educationally disadvantaged; (3) a homeless child, (4) the child of an active duty member of the armed forces of the United States, (5) the child of a member of the armed forces of the United States who was injured or killed while serving on active duty, or (6) in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services.
I applaud the fact that San Antonio taxpayers currently fund over 200 Head Start and public school Pre-K programs. However, instead of improving the infrastructure of these programs, the Council wants to create its own “Department of Education.”
Why would those parents, who do not utilize over 200 existing neighborhood programs, drive or bus four-year-olds clear across town to one of the Council’s Pre-K facilities?
Taxpayers are clearly pro-child, but you can be pro-child and still oppose this new tax.
Finally, the Texas Constitution and Attorney General Opinion JM-1255 remind elected officials of “the strict division of governmental powers between municipalities and school districts” which raises the issue of “the state constitutional provisions governing municipal and school finance.”
Clearly, I strongly oppose this new tax. I believe it is both unconstitutional and bad public policy that increases the footprint of government. Please vote “AGAINST” this tax on your November 2012 ballot.