CCISD/Brandy Petty - Three- and 4-year-olds Ezekiel Garcia, Lashia Jones and Asher Diaz scream with excitement as they watch a volcano they built erupt in their classroom. The project met several pre-K learning guidelines in science as well as life skills.

CCISD pre-kindergarten academy to get state funding

Special to Leader-Press
Mae Stevens Early Learning Academy will get a chunk of change from the state thanks House Bill 4.
The grant program was set up to provide funding to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs that voluntarily met new standards established by the 84th Texas Legislature. Grant recipients are required to meet quality standards related to curriculum, teacher qualifications, academic performance, and family engagement. The grant program also requires districts to report pre-K enrollment and other indicators to the state for the first time, as is required for K-12.
Mae Stevens Early Learning Academy will receive $123,355, a slight increase over 2015-2016 funding of $121,845. The award will be paid in two separate installments with the first one being paid immediately and the second payment arriving later in the fall semester.
CCISD Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Katie Ryan said the district is very excited to be selected as one of the Texas Education Agency’s Pre-K grant recipients.
“The funding will help Mae Stevens Early Learning Academy continue to provide an exemplary learning environment for our youngest scholars. We look forward to the many great offerings this money will provide,” Ryan said. “A big thank you to Mary Derrick, JoAnn Griffin, and the MSELA staff for the ideal job they do for our school district.”
The pre-K grant program will award just under $118 million this year, down from an initial estimate of $130 million. Under the program, qualifying districts can receive up to $1,500 per student but received only $734 per student, not fully maximizing the available funds.
Mae Stevens Early Learning Academy Principal Mary Derrick said Jo Ann Griffin, Coordinator of Early Education, put a lot of time and effort into writing the grant and did an outstanding job of matching the school’s vision with the requirements.
“Mae Stevens Early Learning Academy already has an exemplary program. What this grant does for us is to provide funds to lower our student to teacher ratio in the four-year-old program allowing our teachers to spend more time developing the whole child while maintaining our literacy focus,” Derrick said. “One of the challenges is the teacher certification requirements. Not only do the teachers have to have a Texas teaching certification in early childhood, they must also have an additional 30 continuing education hours addressing the Texas prekindergarten guidelines prior to being placed in the classroom. Fortunately, CCISD has allowed us to gear all our staff development last year and this year toward meeting that goal.”
Stephanie Rubin, CEO of Texans Care for Children, said it will be a challenge for school districts to turn these relatively small grants into sustained improvements in program quality and student performance.
“These pre-K grants are a good step, but state leaders will have to continue the $118 million per school year investment and support other community pre-K improvement efforts to see real returns for kids,” Rubin said.
In 2011, the state cut its pre-K funding program from $200,000 which funded fullday programs in school districts across Texas. After the cuts, several districts, including Copperas Cove, streamlined their pre-K programs and consolidated them all into a single school. Mae Stevens underwent major renovations during the summer of 2014 and reopened its doors with reconfigured restrooms, lockers, water fountains, cafeteria counters and other amenities designed specifically for toddler size students. The premiere learning facility, which offers both morning and afternoon sessions, houses five learning labs including labs for science experiments and cooking exercises. While all districts are required to offer a pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-old students, Cove ISD is one of the few districts that also offers the program to 3-year-olds.
Slightly less than half of Texas’ 1,200 school districts will receive the pre-K funding. Twenty-eight districts in the state chose not to apply for the funds or were denied during the grant process.
“Implementation of this important grant program, which remains a priority of Gov. Abbott, provides important educational support to our youngest Texans,” Education Commissioner Mike Morath said in a news release. “By working to ensure and expand high-quality pre-kindergarten programs across our state, we take an important step toward ensuring every child is prepared for the classroom from the very first day.”


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