New Education Research Center Groundbreaking

Stephen F. Austin State University prepares to begin construction of a $28 million academic facility for the James I. Perkins College of Education. Groundbreaking cerememonies followed a luncheon marking the event on Tuesday. Several hundred were in attendance.  The college plans to create a "one-of-a-kind" early childhood education center by opening a new university charter school.

Pre schoolers played in the sand that regents and educators were about to turn with shiny shovels. Kindergarten through fifth graders currently enrolled in the program waved the ax sign as a teacher led them in a cheer. All of them wore plastic yellow hardhats for the occassion.

The new university charter school would be integrally linked with the Perkins College of Education Department of Elementary Education and the Early Childhood Laboratory, a research laboratory within the college that prepares SFA students to work with young children and their families.

SFA's new university charter school would become the only such school in Texas directly linked with a research laboratory, according to Dr. John Jacobson, dean of the Perkins College of Education. Currently, the University of Texas at Austin is the only other Texas university that operates a university charter school.

"This is an opportunity to build on the great success we have achieved with the exemplary-rated NISD/SFA Charter School," Jacobson said. "The synergy of the university charter school, Early Childhood Lab and Department of Elementary Education under a single roof will enable the Perkins College to perform cutting-edge research in early childhood education and offer East Texas an education environment that will be one of a kind." The new university charter school would replace the NISD/SFA Charter School. The university charter school would be state funded and operate as a public school.

The facility is set to open in August 2009. "The new facility will enable the Perkins College to double its current charter school enrollment of kindergarten through 5th grade students to approximately 260 students who will be able to take advantage of the exemplary-rated program," Jacobson said.

Jacobson predicted that having the university charter school would lead to more education dollars flowing into East Texas. A new university charter school would make SFA eligible to apply for a one-time start-up grant from the Texas Education Agency of up to $400,000, and the state would fund the university charter school operations based on average daily attendance at the school. Additionally, the university charter school would be eligible for funding from new state and federal government sources, as well as grants from foundations.

"The university charter school and research lab will have the potential to increase the Perkins College of Education enrollment of undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in gaining firsthand knowledge of how to make a difference in the lives of their future students and their families," Jacobson said.