Small Town News

Guest Opinion

Business group backs full-day pre-kindergarten

East Bernard Express of East Bernard, Texas

- Advertisement -

The Texas Association of Business thinks paying to expand half-day public pre-kindergarten to full-day makes good business sense.

The TAB, the state's chamber of commerce, said June 9 its board has voted to support expanding the full-day public pre-K programs for children who already qualify for half-day public pre-K

Bill Hammond, longtime executive director of the TAB, said new Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath "has told me that the average student entering kindergarten is 12 to 18 months behind.

"It takes at least six years of excellent teaching for those children to catch up and be on grade-level," Hammond said. "The cost of remediation is enormous and can be a detriment to the other children who come to kindergarten prepared to do that level of work.

"Ensuring that every child, who is currently eligible for public pre-K, is enrolled in a high qualify, full-day program will help close that gap," Hammond said.

Morath, a numbers-conscious former member of the Dallas Independent School District's board, was appointed education commissioner by Gov. Greg Abbott.

The governor had called for expansion of pre-K programs in his first State of the State speech in February of 2015.

However, a Grassroots Advisory Board Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had appointed sent a letter to Texas senators opposing pre-K expansion.

The proposal is "socialistic," the Tea Party-oriented group said, and "removes our young children from homes and half-day religious preschools and mothers' day out programs to a Godless environment with only evidence showing absolutely no long-term benefits beyond the first grade."

Patrick said he was blindsided by the letter, and distanced himself from it.

The Texas Legislature finally passed House Bill 4 to expand pre-K in 2015, but only after Tea Party-backed legislators had capped the amount at $130 million over the two-year budget

Early childhood education advocates said the $130 million, added to a pre-K budget of $1.7 billion, doesn't even make up the $200 million legislators had cut from a pre-K grant program in 2011.

Students who already qualify for pre-K are those below the poverty line, from military families, or in the foster care system. Some school districts already locally fund full-day pre-K

Studies show children who attended a good pre-K program are more likely to stay in school, graduate high school, and attend college, Hammond said.

They'll earn more over their lifetime, and be less likely to be unemployed or go to prison.

"When you look at those statistics, you realize why this is an important issue to business," Hammond said. "Not only are we talking about quality of life, but we are talking about the future quality of our workforce."

Maybe the TAB's weighing in that early education is a good business decision, and saves money in the long run, will help tilt the Legislature toward greater investment.

That said, TAB had also backed Texas accepting federally financed expansion of Medicaid to insure an additional one million residents, create a lot of jobs, and bring Texas about $100 billion over 10 years in return for investment of $15 billion by the state.

But Abbott copied predecessor Rick Perry, and said no.

Expanding pre-K, on the other hand, may fare better with Abbott endorsing it.

Capitol's most popular person retires

The most widely popular person in the Texas Capitol is leaving, after more than two decades.

No, it's not Rick Perry or David Dewhurst. The former governor and lieutenant governor left more than a year ago.

No, it's not Gov. Abbott or Lt Gov. Dan Patrick, or even House Speaker Joe Straus. They plan on being around awhile.

It's Tim Flynn, the capitol nurse since November of 1992. Flynn, a warm, gregarious nurse practitioner, looked after everybody—everybody—in what he called "my capitol."

He considered people, of every political stripe, from janitors to justices, a friend, someone he might help with a prescription or a medical recommendation, or just a welcoming smile.

During legislative sessions, Flynn routinely appeared in the House and Senate to introduce the visiting "Doctor of the Day," who would then hang out with Flynn in his underground office near the Capitol cafeteria, as they jointly treated a steady stream of legislators, staffers and others.

At his two-hour Capitol going-away reception May 25, the receiving line was nonstop. Everyone from janitors to current and former legislators, staff aides, lobbyists, even journalists, stopped by to give the lanky Flynn best wishes and hugs.

Flynn's retirement was effective May 31. He will be missed a lot but may be seen occasionally during the next legislative session in 2017, helping lawmakers and their staffs understand the regulatory needs of his fellow nurse practitioners.

Contact Dave McNeely at or 512-458-2963.

Copyright 2016 East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: July 16, 2016

More from East Bernard Express