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Mayor Castro and Commissioner Wolff Discuss Support and Opposition to Pre-K 4 SA

Paul Flahive
Texas Public Radio

San Antonians are heading to the polls to vote for candidates in a number of races and the Pre-K 4 SA proposal – to raise the sales tax one eighth of a cent to pay for a full day pre-kindergarten program that proponents say will help turn around the city’s dropout problem.

Mayor Julián Castro is the biggest supporter for Pre-K for SA and says it’s not a silver bullet, but a big step in the right direction.

Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff opposes the proposal  because it raises taxes and he says there are too many unanswered questions.

When you go to vote in San Antonio this election – the last page of the electronic ballot asks the question:

"Adoption of a sales and use tax at the rate of one-eight of one percent for the purpose of financing authorized programs of the san Antonio early childhood education municipal development corporation for a maximum period of 8 years."

This is Pre-K 4 SA, and it’s drawn heavy opposition from the local Tea Party, and strong support from education advocates and local chambers of commerce.

Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff

"There are a number of questions, that in my mind have remained unanswered. The first of course is that it is a tax increase - a sales tax increase - and the problem I have with that in my current position as a county commissioner is I represent not only the people within San Antonio within my precinct, but also the suburban cities - like castle hills, shavano park - as well as the unincorporated area. So one of my chief concerns as an elected representative is that this program will not be available for any of those individuals in those unincorporated areas or suburban cities."

Mayor Julián Castro:

"Pre-K 4 SA is a result of collaboration between business leaders and education leaders from different sides of the aisle and different perspectives on how we can improve education in our city. Specifically, this plan is well-supported throughout our community because it invests in the nearly 6,000 four year olds in San Antonio who every year do not get high-quality, full-day pre-K education.  It invests when they are four years old and their brains are developing at their peak. It is open to all families, unlike the state system that has income cutoffs. It's going to serve children around the city, and it expects more from everyone."

Current Capacity for Pre-K Offerings:

Castro: "I have spoken to folks from SAISD, folks there in the urban core of this city, and they will tell you that they have waiting lists for families who want pre-K education. At the same time, Northeast and North Side will tell you that they generally would like to go to full day pre-K, but right now they can only offer half day because they don't have the physical space. This is an opportunity for us to fill a gap, to add to what the school districts are doing, not to duplicate or subtract."

Wolff: "There are over 600 different and public and private institutions within Bexar County that supply pre-K education. And when you are talking about our public school system, it's state law that mandates that they provide pre-K if asked to do so by the parents within that school district. So, this waiting list piece may happen with Head Start, but not with our public school system, so crossing those two is incorrect."

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi