7 MAJOR PROBLEMS
PRE K 4 SA was supposed to provide an opportunity to level the playing field in education for all of our kids.
Former Mayor Secretary Julian Castro would say children in the poorer communities would be able to go to school and get a high quality education earlier. He said this would be a solution to get more businesses to come to the City of San Antonio since our workforce is challenged for technology companies. Pre-K 4 SA is a true community investment, funded by a one-eighth cent sales tax approved by voters in 2012. It will be re-voted on or revoked in 2020. Since our taxes have been raised, there has not been one company that has moved to the City of San Antonio because of this new program. We have outlined major problems with this program. We believe the next mayor should evaluate it as the money being spent is not benefitting everyone.
Sold to San Antonio through a million-dollar campaign blitz, Mayor Julián Castro's promised innovative preschool program purported to raise the standard of excellence so high that it would become a model for the city, even the nation.
Mayor Castro called Pre K 4 SA a “Herculean effort,” 20 members of the city's staff were on a learning curve to become educational experts while developing the program. They were trained on the job by educational consultants at taxpayers' expense, but it was City Manager Sheryl Sculley and her staff, not educators, who built Pre-K 4 SA.
The promises are being revealed as empty.
Problem #1: The City builds the first Pre K 4 SA centers on the North Side. Why? The North Side wildly said No and voted against the program. Today, in a survey conducted by Pre K 4 SA, the North still doesn’t want the program. The North Side have waiting list for the demand of children but on the East Side, the enrollment goals have not been met. There is no waiting list. So here is our perception after speaking with child care providers… Mayor Castro wanted the well behaved children with affluent parents to show off the Mayor’s program. These were the people who don’t need the tremendous discount and the ones who would educate their children with or without government resources.
Problem #2: It is a shame; the East Side of San Antonio is in the worst of all Pre K 4 SA locations. It leads the City with the least enrollments. There are no waiting lists for the East Side program. Why? Weren’t we promised this was to help our children? The problem with the East Side is the Pre K 4 SA has had no “boots on the ground” campaign trying to help the mothers and grandmothers get their babies in the program. The truth is you have never seen us market the availability of Pre K 4 SA because the city’s author – Mayor Castro – never wrote us into his grand marketing plan. The poorest of the poorest communities should have filled the waiting list. So you see when Castro laid out where to build the first centers, and who to win over, it was political and had nothing to do about us. Black families have not gained because of this new measure –the community reports no impact!
Problem # 3: Politicians believe providing an early education to children will enable the kids to compete stronger in the workforce. Educators think differently. Well according to a recent survey conducted by Pre K 4 SA, the MAJORITY of teachers report the program will not truly help the children reach a higher level of accomplishment. It is believed by the time children reach the third grade, all the children are performing at the about same level – with or without a PRE K education. So the question is why are we authorizing so much tax payer money to have the same level of knowledge at the third grade level? Are we sinking money into play time?
Problem #4: PRE K 4 SA has pushed local small minority and women owned businesses to the ground like a bad bully on the playground. The program complaints have been that the Pre K 4 SA “stole their customers”, “hired their teachers forcing shortage in the workforce” and never partnered to refer the waiting listed children to Pre-K Schools in their community. One business owner who refused to be named said the program acts like the Wal-Mart that wants to move into a new community and pushes the little guy down with their standards and their definitions – like “High Quality”. It is the opinion of the business sector that tax dollars are being used to build a Wal-Mart for Pre K in San Antonio.
Problem #5: When the school districts raised their voices of opposition not to support the initiative, PRE K 4 SA gave the school districts a grant of about $4M in 2016 to quite their protest. This money was used to support the school district after school programs and other enhancements. Is that a double tax? Why do the School Districts raise bond money and receive property taxes and now need more PRE K dollars? Again was this partnering that then Mayor Castro had in mind? Additionally to the small minority businesses competing for their after school programs, was this fair to them?
Problem #6: For-profit childcare centers and Pre-k programs have to rebuild their programs after losing their paid customers to free Pre K 4 SA. The Pre K 4 SA also gave $100K of the $4.2 million dollars in grants in 2016 to for-profit companies. The solicitation didn’t reach any for-profit company on the East Side. Again, the biggest failure is no referrals have occurred to active partners which are now the city’s competitors. The city program has taken on monopoly attributes. The For-profits we interviewed all say they are good enough to receive city funding to support the Child Care Subsidy program for parents that need support, but when it comes to the older children who are getting prepared for elementary school, the city does not share the tax payer dollars and provides no referrals. “They attacked us in our profit area…this is about taking more tax dollars and really less about providing quality education.”
Problem # 7: Only $100K went to non-profit schools with no customer referrals to these schools. Is this the partnering the former Mayor Castro presented in his plan? This is a recipe for failure. Was this the model Castro had in mind to build his reputation going to DC?
Again, Mayor Taylor had to hire new leadership for Pre K 4 SA, Dr. Sarah Baray in 2016. We read Mayor Taylor is evaluating the future of the program Mayor Castro built. Unfortunately Mayor Castro left too soon and didn’t work out the many bugs to the program he hoped to bring to Washington.
To clarify for our readers, President Obama did try to roll out the PRE K 4 USA which never had a chance to be supported. He did use the successful role out of Mayor Castro as a deliverable that would help him gain more Hispanic votes and to use to provide universal PRE K for the country.