Heartland Institute Research on 'Pre-K 4 SA' Initiative in San Antonio, Texas

Read The Heartland Institute Policy Brief titled "Seven Educational Reasons to Oppose San Antonio’s Pre-K Plan," released Oct. 18, 2012.

On November 6, San Antonio voters will decide whether to increase their sales tax by 1/8th cent to generate $280 million over a period of eight years. Revenue from the tax increase would fund a new city educational corporation. The city council would appoint the executive director and board of directors for the corporation, which would be accountable to the city manager. ...

This plan makes important assumptions that have not been tested about what is good for young children and families, including many that educational and developmental research do not support. Although there are many reasons to question the wisdom of this proposal, this report focuses on seven.

Click here for the PDF.


Read The Heartland Institute Policy Brief titled "21 Reasons Why the San Antonio Pre-K Tax Plan Is a Bad Idea," released Oct. 2, 2012.

Click here for the PDF.

On November 6, voters in San Antonio, Texas will vote on whether the city should own and operate a network of early childhood education centers. The initiative is controversial, and rightly so. There are many reasons to question whether such a network, which would operate in competition with existing private and public day-care and pre-school programs, is the best or even an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.

This Policy Brief describes the initiative and then presents 21 reasons the plan is a bad idea. Sources for facts and numbers that appear here are readily found from public sources, which the author is willing to help readers find. 


Mayor Julian Castro and the City of San Antonio have placed a proposition on the upcoming November ballot to enact a sales tax to create a new “Municipal Development Corporation” that would build and operate new early childhood education centers around the city. According to the city manager’s Web site, Pre-K 4 SA is designed to improve the quality and quantity of pre-kindergarten (pre-K) childhood education for four-year-olds city wide focusing on numeracy and literacy as well as providing professional development for pre-K through grade 3 educators.”

The initiative would be funded by the city’s remaining 1/8 cent sales tax. The initiative would be governed by a city council-created corporation with a council-appointed 11 member board. The city council would approve the program’s annual budget. The city has promised to include annual performance audits and assessments to measure success that would be conducted by independent third-party entities. The program would be for an eight-year period and would be subject to voter re-authorization in November 2020.

Four “Education Excellence Centers” would be located in four different quadrants of the city, each with approximately 50,000 square feet consisting of classrooms, family support rooms, teacher training areas, and playgrounds to support approximately 500 four-year-olds.

Over eight years, Pre-K 4 SA would consist of an initial three-year build-up in enrollment and five years of full enrollment and program evaluation. In years four through eight, 3,700 children would be enrolled annually, with 2,000 enrolled in city-built “model centers.” 

Enrollment would be free of charge for students who meet at least one of the state eligibility criteria. A four-year-old is eligible if he/she or his/her families are:

 eligible for free or reduced lunch (is at 185 percent of the federal poverty level); or 
 unable to speak and comprehend the English language; or 
 homeless; or 
 the child of an active-duty member of the armed forces of the United States; or 
 the child of a member of the armed forces of the United States who was injured or killed while serving on active duty; or 
 is or has been in foster care. 

Note: Children with these characteristics are already eligible for free pre-K services.

Enrollment would be chosen through lottery systems administered by participating school districts. Funding for Pre-K 4 SA is contingent on the November 6, 2012 special sales tax ballot measure. More information about the program is available from Rebecca Flores, the City of San Antonio’s Education Coordinator, at 210/207-2066.

Jeff Judson is a senior fellow and member of the Board of Directors of The Heartland Institute. He is the former president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Under his leadership the TPPF became one of the largest and most influential free-market state think tanks in the U.S. and became known for its influence on public opinion, the news media, state legislators, and top elected officials.


SEPTEMBER 21, 2012 — San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro today released a YouTube video featuring children asking the public to support “Pre-K 4 SA,” an 1/8th-cent sales tax initiative that would fund full-day preschool for thousands of the city’s 4-year-olds. Castro urged citizens to contribute $7.81 to the Pre-K 4 SA campaign to help it pass – what the mayor says the new tax will cost each resident and business in the city.

The following statement from Jeff Judson, a San Antonio resident and senior fellow at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Tammy Nash at tnash@heartland.org and 312/377-4000. After regular business hours, contact Jim Lakely at jlakely@heartland.org.

“Today Mayor Castro held a press conference encouraging citizens to contribute $7.81 to his campaign to create a new city government pre-K program. This clever tactic attempts to highlight the meager amount of tax money they project each citizen will pay for the program. But $7.81 multiplied by millions of taxpayers and businesses still equals a quarter of a billion dollars sucked out of the local economy.

“The 22,000 4-year-olds who the campaign claims it will send to pre-K programs are ones who are already eligible for free, high-quality pre-K. All the tax will do is cannibalize existing programs that are teaching kids now. And the difference for kids between all-day pre-K and half-day pre-K is lunch, recess, a nap, and one hour of instruction. Is this worth $250 million, and a new city bureaucracy to run it?

“If you think this is more about politics than children, you’d do more good by donating $7.81 to The Heartland Institute, which gets out the truth about the small returns of universal pre-K programs.”

Jeff Judson
Senior Fellow, Director
The Heartland Institute

Click here to donate to The Heartland Institute.

More Information:

Jeff Judson quoted in a San Antonio Express-News story on Pre-K 4 SA: "Opposing sides meet, clash on the Pre-K 4 SA proposal," September 19, 2012.

Jeff Judson participates in a panel discussion about Pre-K for SA on Texas Public Radio, KTSX, September 18, 2012. (Listen to the podcast here.)

"San Antonio Mayor Proposes Tax for More Pre-K," Sally Nelson, Heartlander digital magazine, July 20, 2012.

Lisa Snell: Better Alternatives to Government Preschool, Joy Pullman, Heartland Daily Podcast, May 18, 2012.

"Connecticut Looks to Overhaul Early Education," Ashley Bateman, Heartlander digital magazine, January 19, 2012.

"Limited Gains found in Chicago Preschool Program," Lindsey Burke, Heartlander digital magazine, July 5, 2011.

"California Pre-K Plan in Trouble," Neal McCluskey, Heartlander digital magazine, April 1, 2006.

"Florida's Voluntary Pre-K Program Gives Parents New Options," Jenny Rothenberg, Heartlander digital magazine, October 1, 2005.

"Model Scholarship Legislation for Preschool, Pre-K Adopted by ALEC," Lori Drummer, Heartlander digital magazine, July 1, 2005.


Heartland Institute Research on Pre-K:

Research & Commentary: Early Childhood Education, Joy Pullman, The Heartland Institute, January 26, 2012.

"Head Start Earns an F: No Lasting Impact for Children by First Grade," Dan Lips and David Mulhausen, January 21, 2010.

"Academic Success Begins at Home: How Children Can Succeed in School," Christine Kim, September 22, 2008.

"Where Do Head Start Attendees End Up? One Reason Why Preschool Effects Fade Out," Valerie E. Lee and Susanna Loeb, May 5, 1995.

"Head Start: What Do We Know About What Works?", Sharon M. McGroder, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 1, 1990.


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