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Fort Worth ISD Could Slash Pre-K

By Bill Zeeble, KERA News

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kera/local-kera-955578.mp3

Dallas, TX – As Fort Worth schools continue struggling with a state budget shortfall of up to $80 million over the next 2 years, the district is still considering cuts to some or all of its all-day pre-kindergarten program, including pre-k assistants. KERA's Bill Zeeble explains.

At Tuesday's briefing, Trustees liked pre-k programs because they said they worked. But two thirds of the funding - from stimulus money - is now gone. Another $4.5 million from the state faces the knife too. Larry Shaw, who leads Fort Worth's largest teacher group, the United Educators Association, says the program is worth keeping, even if pre-k for 3 year olds is cut, which he says is one consideration. But he says 4 year olds populate the bulk of the program.

Larry Shaw: I taught both Head Start which is really 4 year-olds and seniors in high school. If I had to make the choice of seniors or 4 year-olds, it's 4 year-olds. And that's tough to say as a teacher of seniors for 9 years.

Another option includes the elimination of assistants. The district could also make the full-day program just a half - day pre-k. Shaw says that creates another problem.

Shaw: You're still going to have to do something with most of those children because most of the parents work today.

Shaw says parents might be asked to pay extra - like a day-care fee - to keep their pre-k children in school a full day. Trustees are also considering changes to what's called Terminal pay, which is a kind exit bonus, or one-time longevity payment for teachers who retire.

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