Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Leticia Van de Putte

For Immediate Release
May 1, 2006
Contact: Tiffany Hunt, (210) 733-6604

Senator Van de Putte joins Senator Shapleigh and Senator Zaffirini in an effort to make children of soldiers eligible for pre-kindergarten

AUSTIN -- Senator Van de Putte, Senator Shapleigh and Senator Zaffirini co-authored Senate Bill 25, a bill which will make the children of military personnel eligible for free pre-kindergarten classes. This has been filed both as a part of the main education bill and a stand-alone bill.

The proposal would make the child of an active duty member of the armed forces or a member of the National Guard or Reserves eligible for pre-kindergarten. The child of an armed services member who is killed or injured while serving would remain eligible for the program as well.

Of the approximately 5,400 three- and four-year old military children in Texas, at least 50 percent are already eligible for pre-kindergarten under the existing requirements. Free pre-kindergarten classes are currently available to children who cannot speak English, are educationally disadvantaged or homeless.

"San Antonio in many ways is a military community so this issue is of utmost importance to the city," said Jason Sabo, VP for Public Policy of the United Ways of Texas. "Making pre-kindergarten classes an option for military children also helps prepare the many children headed to Texas for our rigorous school system, helping to avoid the possibility of costly remediation."

General Thomas A. 'Tom' Schwartz (US Army - Retired), Chairman of Military Child Education Coalition, said "As a Texan, I am proud of the commitments that this state has made to our troops and I am gratified that this bill will provide more support to them and to their families as they carry out their missions in service to our nation. The fiscal impact of this initiative is minimal but the investment in these children will provide an educational benefit that will be enormous and lasting."

"Research shows that quality pre-kindergarten can help a child's development in a rich variety of areas, including language, social skills, relationships with teachers and peers, self-perception, and, ultimately, school-readiness. What's more, quality public pre-kindergarten provides a positive long-term economic development impact by allowing parents to re-enter the workforce with the knowledge that their children are prepared for school," said Senator Judith Zaffirini, D - Laredo, author of Senate Bill 76 (2003), which established the Texas Early Childhood Education Model (TEEM). "Extending to children of military servicemen and servicewomen the opportunity to attend pre-kindergarten is an expression of our appreciation for their outstanding service to our country. They fought for our future, and we will help ensure a brighter future for their children."

"With America at war, our military is going to great extents to support our country and in doing so are making sacrifices at home. Therefore, I believe military children deserve every opportunity we can give them in turn." said Senator Leticia Van de Putte, D - San Antonio. "The dedicated service of Reservists and Guardsmen merits tangible benefits we can offer. Making the children of service members eligible for pre-kindergarten is something we can provide with little difficulty in demonstration of our gratitude."

Senator Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) is the Chair of the Senate Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee, as well as the Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus.