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President Obama Echoes Castro's Education Initiative: Pre-K 4 USA

Ryan Loyd
Texas Public Radio

While President Barack Obama did not mention San Antonio or Mayor Julián Castro by name, he did talk about early education initiatives during his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

For a moment in the president's address, it seemed like one of Mayor Castro’s Pre-K 4 SA campaign rallies.

Obama: "Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program.”
Castro: “Time after time, research has demonstrated that the biggest return that you get on your investment in education is by investing when a child’s mind is developing at its peak, when they’re young,… the problem is that here in San Antonio we have these thousands of children who are not getting that high quality full-day pre-K that would allow them to be more successful.” (Oct. 31, 2012)

Mayor Castro’s case for Pre-K 4 SA, which passed with 53 percent of the vote in the November election, touted a fantastic return on investment as one of the key reasons that the local chambers of commerce supported the plan.

Both Castro and Obama used the same return on investment research to support their case: for every $1 invested in pre-K, studies show a $3 to $7 return on investment.

Castro announced his early education program to a nationwide audience during his keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in early September, but it would fit that he spoke with the president about the program during Obama’s trip to San Antonio in July.

Preschool education has taken the driver’s seat of Mayor Castro’s time in office, and now that he is up for re-election he will need to show some solid progress to show everyone in San Antonio, and the nation, that his programs are effective.

Another Pre-K 4 SA-ish element of the SOTU:

President Obama was clearly focused on economic issues, evident in the fact that nearly all the subjects he touched on directly or indirectly had something to do with the economy: housing market, budget, taxes, Medicare, immigration, unemployment and education.

Credit The White House
Every main point was directly or indirectly linked with the economy save for updates on al-Qaeda and other terrorist threats.

One of the specific programs he put forward as a path to a better educated workforce was what the president called “manufacturing hubs” -- centers to train people for high-tech jobs.

These centers for learning have a hint of Mayor Castro’s Education Excellence Centers, which are tied to the Pre-K 4 SA program. The mayor’s office has suggested remodeling existing buildings currently not in use to serve as the pre-K learning centers.

The president’s vision is to transform empty manufacturing and warehouse facilities into state-of-the-art training centers where local businesses partner with the Department of Defense and Energy to train people in developing technical fields.

Obama cited a facility in Youngstown, Ohio that transformed an abandoned warehouse into a high-tech training lab where new workers are learning about 3D printing.

“There's no reason this can't happen in other towns,” said the president, who added that  there are another three centers in the works, and asked congress to set up a network of 15 more.

The first two of Mayor Castro’s education centers, in the northwest and southeast parts of the city, are scheduled to open in August, but construction has not yet begun.

The northwest location will remodel an existing building, while the southwest center will be a newly constructed facility.

My journalism journey began with an idea for a local art and music zine and the gumption to make it happen with no real plan or existing skill set.
Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.