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North Texas School Districts Push To Enroll More Children In Pre-K

More than 30,000 children in Dallas County are eligible for pre-k but aren't enrolled.

In Dallas County, more than 30,000 eligible children are not enrolled in pre-K. The education nonprofit Commit and nine area school districts have teamed up this week to early register thousands of students for pre-K in the fall. Jaime Hanks Meyers is director of early education at Commit.

Interview Highlights: Jaime Hanks Meyers …

… On how this effort to register kids in Dallas County came about:

“It started three years ago with just two districts and it really started because when you look at the data, we found that over 30,000 eligible 3- and 4-year olds were not enrolling in pre-k even though they were eligible to do so.”

… On why more families aren’t signing up for pre-K:

“There are two main obstacles that we hear from parents. The first is, yes, awareness, that they either didn’t know about pre-K – it’s not a mandatory school year. So they either didn’t know about it, or they didn’t know that they were qualified to enroll.

The second (barrier) is often that many districts offer only a half-day program and parents need a full day of care when they’re working.”

… On how school districts are trying to reach poor families:

“That’s one of the main reasons why we are looking at increasing pre-k registration, because it is free for families who qualify who are low-income.

There’s also Head Start programs that are available. There’s child care subsidies to support families. And so the partnerships that we form to help get the word out and reach those families are very intentional such as working with the food bank.”

… On the reason for getting more children enrolled in pre-K:

“They increase the likelihood of children entering kindergarten ready and kindergarten ready is a predictive factor for if they’re reading on grade level in third grade and research shows that predicts high school graduation.

If a student is not reading on grade level by third grade, they are four times more likely to drop out of high school.”