NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - How much value should be placed on a pre-kindergartner's education in Texas?
That's the question Texas legislators are answering as they come closer to adopting a state budget.
The House of Representatives adopted its proposal late Wednesday, but House Bill 1 does not account for pre-K.
Debate over several pre-K funding bills continues, and the Nacogdoches Independent School District wants to have a voice in the matter.
Listening to a four year old read is pretty remarkable. Legislators are attempting to put a dollar amount on all the accomplishments shown by pre-K students.
A lot can happen in one day of learning.
"Today we have been learning about sight words," said Jessica Jones, a Pre-K teacher.
"I'm writing sight words," said one of her pre-K students.
"Also we are trying to practice learning how to put sentences together," Jones said.
"I'm doing my work," a student said.
"When we're making a statement, we put a period at the end," Jones told her students. "And if we have a question, for a sentence, we put a question mark at the end."
The question legislators are asking is how much to increase the $1.6 billion of state school aid it sends districts for pre-K instruction. That covers half day programs only.
NISD offers full day pre-K instruction, using school tax dollars, but only 400 Nacogdoches children who live in low-income or do not speak English benefit.
"So if it was fully funded we would be able to meet the needs of our total population and so all of those kids would have an opportunity to get a jump start on their educational programs," said Chante' Davis, NISD's executive director of accountability and federal programs."
Nacogdoches school board passed a resolution seeking state investment in full-day, prekindergarten programs. Educators contend an investment in the pre-K foundation will be returned as the child grows older.
"Later on we don't have to spend as much money on interventions, after school activities, summer school activities to play, in essence, catch up," Davis said.
It's one of the governor's top priorities, as it is for Rep. Trent Ashby, R - Lufkin. He's the House's chief education budget writer. However, many Democrats argue Republican proposals aren't budgeting near enough.
The legislature is also debating how to divide the funding among school districts and if full-day kindergarten should be state funded.