Under Adler, pre-K initiative in the works
Steve Adler said on the campaign trail last year that he would use the "considerable powers of the bully pulpit and the ability to convene" to create a better education for Austin students.
One of the most effective ways to do that, the Austin mayoral aspirant said, is enrolling more 3- and 4-year-olds in pre-kindergarten and improving the education they receive. Adler's campaign website ticked off benefits "proven" to come with pre-K: increased high school graduation rates, higher future earnings, a stronger workforce and potentially lower government costs such as in criminal justice.
The Austin district offers full-day pre-K partly funded by the state to students who can't speak English and those who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches or meet other criteria. In the 2014-15 school year, its schools had 4,599 children in pre-K, down from 5,087 in 2013-14, district spokesman Jacob Barrett told us by email.
In August 2014, when Adler was still stumping, the Austin City Council took a stab at promoting pre-K by passing a resolution telling the city manager, Marc Ott, to use city resources to advertise enrollment in the Austin district's pre-K program for the 2014-15 school year. Then-Council Member Sheryl Cole was the lead sponsor of the resolution; Council Member Kathie Tovo was a co-sponsor.
As a result, city spokeswoman Alicia Dean told us by email, the city has worked with E3 Alliance, a group of business and education leaders that researches education trends and programs, to encourage enrollment by developing a flier and spreading the word about pre-kindergarten classes to visitors to the city's 14 Women, Infants and Children offices, which run a nutritional program for low-income residents.
In 2015, Tovo offered a similar council resolution, which the council approved without discussion on June 23. The resolution cited E3 Alliance data indicating that between 2013 and 2015, about 1,500 Travis County children were eligible for pre-k based on the program's language or income criteria but did not enroll.
Bobby Levinski, a policy aide in Tovo's office, forwarded us an email from the E3 Alliance saying that 7,974 kindergarten students in Travis County in 2014-15 would have qualified for pre-K. In 2013-14, in contrast, only 6,425 of those students were enrolled in a local public school pre-K program, the email said. Levinski said he subtracted the 6,425 figure from the 7,974 figure to estimate 1,549 students could have gone to pre-K locally but did not.
The resolution called for the city to promote pre-K offerings by the Austin district and--unlike the 2014 resolution--by other districts in the city. It also said enrollment should be advertised in monthly utility bills.
Adler co-sponsored the resolution with Council Members Ora Houston and Delia Garza. Levinski said Adler's office "suggested" and "helped make sure" the resolution covered districts and schools that are centered in Austin or that have boundaries including part of the city. Those are Austin, Del Valle, Round Rock, Leander, Manor, Eanes, Pflugerville, Hays, Lake Travis, the Texas School for the Deaf and the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Levinski said, pointing to a map compiled by the city.
Kazique Prince, Adler's education outreach coordinator, said by phone that several mayoral staffers are making progress on a larger pre-kindergarten initiative but are "not ready to make any announcements as far as what we want to do."
We rate this Adler PROMISE IN THE WORKS.
In the Works — This indicates the promise has been proposed or is being considered.
Phone interviews, Kazique Prince, education outreach coordinator, Mayor Steve Adler's office, Austin, June 24, 2015 and June 29, 2015
Web page, "Building a Student-Centered Austin," Adler for Mayor, accessed June 25, 2015
Web article, "Five candidates compete for at-large seat on Austin school board," Austin American-Statesman, Oct. 9, 2014
Web article, "Austin City Council staffing plan grows, but not as mayor had hoped," Austin American-Statesman, March 31, 2015
Web article, "Austin City Council and mayor approve plan for more staff," Austin American-Statesman, April 2, 2015