On Wednesday, Texas House Bill 4 — otherwise known as the early education bill — passed with a 129-18 vote. The bill, filed by Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, would give roughly $130 million in extra funding to schools across Texas if they implement certain improvements to their pre-kindergarten programs. Schools would have to adopt certain curriculum and teacher quality standards in their pre-kindergarten programs as well as a "parent engagement plan, " according to the Texas Tribune.
Huberty was reported as saying, "I want to make sure that we do the right thing for our little kids” when he was confronted by opposition that claimed the program sought to serve more children than those already eligible, namely disadvantaged children and those from military families. And even though education groups have criticized the plan for not going far enough because it did not make any attempt to restore a $200 million pre-K grant program lawmakers gutted in 2011, or require/fund a full-day pre-K program, the bill is still a step in the right direction.
When Gov. Greg Abbott took office in January, he named early education an emergency item for the legislative session — this bill is certainly a display of that sentiment, as well as a signal to representatives that measures will be taken to improve the reputation of Texas' education system as a whole. While the bill won't magically solve all of Texas' problems, it sets a much-needed precedent for academic accountability. If the correct measures are taken to prevent the expansion of government that skeptics predicted would be a result of the bill, there is the possibility for bipartisan unification in the Capitol — at least over education issues.
Berkeley is an associate editor.