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House budget proposal would defund Gov. Abbott’s pre-K program

The House has proposed cutting all funding for a pre-K grant program that Gov. Greg Abbott has discussed as a priority this legislative session — setting the stage for a battle in the Legislature.

 

Gov. Greg Abbott is facing strong resistance in the Legislature to his plan to increase funding this legislative session for high-quality pre-K.

 

The latest House budget proposal would cut all funding for a pre-K grant program that Abbott wants to see doubled in the next biennium. The House base budget publicly released in January had allocated $118 million for the program, but by the time that budget was officially filed last week, all funding for the program had been cut.

 

The House instead put that money into supplemental funding for pre-K, which would distribute money to almost all school districts for their pre-K programs based on the amount of students enrolled, without any strings attached. While the Senate budget plan includes some money for the pre-K grant program, the allotment isn’t near what Abbott is calling for.

 

Over the past couple of weeks, Abbott has been publicly pushing the Legislature to fund the early education program he had championed in 2015. Last session, House Bill 4 set aside $118 million total in one-time grants for school districts for pre-K programs that met state standards. Those standards include using certain curricula, setting specific teacher-student ratios and pledging to report student progress to the Texas Education Agency.

 

As school districts clamor for more money this session to meet those standards, Abbott wants to double HB 4 program funding to $236 million total in 2018-19. Advocates for expanded pre-K funding will see an uphill battle this session, with legislators in both chambers unlikely to shell out much more on a divisive issue.

 

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