Pre-K 4 SA students play and learn at one of the program's four centers. Photo courtesy of Pre-K 4 SA
Pre-K 4 SA students play and learn at one of the program's centers. Credit: Courtesy / Pre-K 4 SA

Pre-K 4 SA‘s board of directors approved $4.2 million in competitive grants for local early childhood education providers on Tuesday. The grants, funded by the sales tax voters approved in 2012, will go to six independent school districts, two private/parochial schools, and seven childcare centers.

Click here to download the complete list of grants. All awards recommended by the grant committee to the board of directors were approved and the largest awards went to the largest school districts.

North East ISD received the largest grant, totaling $950,451. This will allow the district to move from half-day to full-day and after-school enrichment on three campuses, partner with Communities in Schools, and add licensed social emotional services.

Northside ISD received a grant of $827,080. In addition to moving to full-day and after-school enrichment on three campuses, its grant will expand professional development and improve parental engagement on 49 campuses.

San Antonio ISD’s $757,278 grant will allow the district to add after-school enrichment on eight campuses, and enhance staff, supplies, equipment and professional development.

The two private and parochial schools, Hope for the Future, operated by the Archdiocese of San Antonio, and St. Mary Magdalen will receive $358,743 and $109,000 respectively. Hope for the Future will use its grant for curriculum enhancements, supplies, and professional development. St. Mary Magdalen will try to improve student-teacher ratios and enrollment.

All of the childcare centers, including Family Service Association and YMCA of Greater San Antonio, will use a portion of their grants to pursue child development associates and/or professional development, among other things. The grants in this category range from $20,000-$90,000.

The four Pre-K 4 SA centers will serve a total of 2,000 students per year. Photo courtesy of Pre-K 4 SA
The four Pre-K 4 SA centers will serve a total of 2,000 students per year. Photo courtesy of Pre-K 4 SA

In the three years Pre-K 4 SA’s brick and mortar centers have been in operation, the board has established steady annual operating costs, allowing it to guarantee the grants on an annual basis for the remainder of Pre-K 4 SA’s initial eight-year lifespan. 

The initiative represents the multi-faceted approach to reach underserved 4-year-olds across the city. While the four centers will serve a total of 2,000 students per year, beginning fiscal year 2017, the true reach of Pre-K 4 SA will be felt in the spread of best practices throughout the city.

The choice to make grants to private and parochial institutions as well as ISDs and public programs acknowledges the diverse choices parents make for their young children.

“We didn’t want to ignore any place where we could make a difference,” said Pre-K 4 SA CEO Kathy Bruck.

Pre-K 4 SA reached out a wide range of centers and schools, and were encouraged to see how many embraced a discussion of raising standards to meet those outlined by the National Institute of Early Education Research. Many centers wanted to pursue certifications increasing the quality of their offerings, said Bruck, but were unable to afford the training and materials. The PreK 4 SA grants are designed to help them reach those goals.

“I think this has the potential to make lasting changes cross all the places 4-year-olds learn,” said Bruck.

Awarded agencies will use the grants to provide a variety of projects to expand or enhance pre-k programs. Specifically:

·      38% of funding will go towards expanding the school day from half-day to full-day prekindergarten programs.

·      24% of funding will support expanding the school day from full-day to extended day.

·      38% of funding will aim to enhance current programs in schools through curriculum, innovative technology, targeted professional development, and increased family engagement.

She acknowledges that the centers, while effective, cannot scale to serve the whole city. The competitive grant program was always intended to be the most extensive reach of resources into the early education community.

Each grant lasts for one year but recipients will have the opportunity to be approved for a one-year renewal based on performance and compliance. Another RFP will be released for the 2018-19 school year.

Pre-K 4 SA anticipates that kinder-readiness will expand exponentially as these grants are implemented across the city, multiplying the effect of public dollars as students move into the city’s public schools prepared to learn.

Top image: Pre-K 4 SA students play and learn at one of the program’s four centers. Photo courtesy of Pre-K 4 SA

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Bekah McNeel

Bekah McNeel

Bekah McNeel is a native San Antonian. You can also find her at her blog,, on Twitter @BekahMcneel, and on Instagram @wanderbekah.