Etoile ISD's pre-school program resembles Pres. Obama's proposal

ETOILE, TX (KTRE) - This week, the president promoted his preschool plan at a Georgia school, one of only five states that offers pre-school to all four year olds.

In Texas, no pre-K or even kindergarten is mandatory. Yet there are districts offering pre-school to all three and four year olds.

The Etoile Independent School District in Nacogdoches County is an extremely small district. These three and four year olds live in very rural areas.

"We don't have a preschool in our community," Sarah Hottman, the superintendent of Etoile ISD, said. "They would have to travel to Nacogdoches or to Lufkin, a great distance, and most families can't do that."

Thanks to a partnership with Head Start, all young children in the district can receive early education.

"One of the things that makes it unique is that it is public," Hottman said.

That means no one is excluded in Etoile ISD. In most places, Head Start serves children from low-income households, while others attend private preschools. Millions of others caught between the socioeconomic cracks are left out.

Right now, what's found in Etoile is as close to the president's preschool plan as can be found in Texas, a state where preschool isn't mandatory.

"No, and kindergarten is not mandatory in Texas, but I tell you if your child came as a first grader, they would be way behind," Hottman said.

Some research shows a preschool education doesn't do much to benefit children in the long run.

It's not difficult to find a preschool teacher who adamantly disagrees.

"They'll just know a lot more when they get there," Esther Billington, a pre-school teacher with Etoile ISD, said. "They'll know how to behave and they'll be prepared for success."

Proponents say preschool develops a passion for learning, so big dreams have a better opportunity of coming true for all children.

Head Start-school district partnerships are offered in at least six school districts within the Greater East Texas Community Action Program. That agency serves 12 East Texas counties.

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