Despite Ongoing Fight For PreK Funding, DISD Launches Innovative Program

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Even as state lawmakers fight over fully funding PreK education, DISD leaders are moving ahead with an innovative program to bring early childhood learning to kids in their communities.

The district already makes full day PreK available to every eligible student—but that does not mean the program is always accessible, especially for those in the half day program for 3-year-olds.

“For working families, you can’t just drive your child back and forth to school for half day,” says Derek Little, DISD’s Assistant Superintendent for Early Learning, “you need a place all day.”

Last summer, Little and his colleagues went door-to-door in Dallas neighborhoods hoping to help boost PreK enrollment, and get a feel for what was keeping families away. Now, the district is addressing some of those concerns by bringing the curriculum to the community by partnering with local child care centers.

“Their classrooms will keep the teacher that they have; but, will add a DISD teacher. It will have the same curriculum that we use on our campuses, students will have the same support, and most importantly all of the teachers at the center will receive coaching and support from us,” says Little.

The Neighborhood Christian Learning Center of Dallas is one of a half dozen childcare centers participating in the program that will launch in the fall.

“It’s going to include math, phonics, science, reading, circle time, there’s going to be time for small group, large group,” says LaKitsha Proctor-Lee, the center’s director.

“Words just can’t express, you’re going to be able to see the results in your child.”

Still, powerful North Texans publicly prodding lawmakers today cautioned that those results won’t “happen if we don’t spend the money, now.” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings adding that “it’s just a math equation.” According to Rawlings, in order for Dallas and Texas to continue to expand economically, investing in that educated workforce starts now. Otherwise: “these kids will not be ready for the 3rd grade reading that we need them at, and at that point, the cake’s pretty well baked,” says Rawlings.

The Dallas Mayor made the comments during a briefing hosted by Early Matters Dallas. According to a release, the group is a “broad-based coalition of business, civic, education, philanthropic and nonprofit organizations and volunteers, working together to raise awareness about the importance of high quality early education for a strong economy tomorrow.”

Dallas Police Chief David Brown also spoke at the briefing and called himself “the poster child for quality, PreK education.” According to the former chief, “my mother was able to afford to send me to quality PreK and it changed the trajectory of my family.”

In spite of the lingering funding questions, DISD is already planning another big push to boost early childhood enrollment later this month.

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