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Is CCISD's pre-K program is out-of-pocket for some?

Angel Cruz doesn't understand why his daughter, who meets the criteria to attend school for free, initially was turned away and he worries for others
Posted at 11:29 PM, Jan 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-30 15:49:13-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX. — There's concern from parents about how CCISD's tuition-based prekindergarten program may be affecting those who have access to the program free-of-charge.

One parent KRIS 6 News spoke to has a child who qualifies for the pre-K program tuition-free. He thought saving a few bucks was great, except when he showed up to Mireles Elementary School for class registration, his daughter was turned away. That's despite Mireles Elementary being their zoned school.

Mireles Elementary, Dawson Elementary and Luther Jones Elementary are the only schools to offer tuition-supported pre-K. Those classroom seats fill up quickly. However, students who qualify for free pre-K also take part in those classes.

Angel Cruz's daughter is one of those students, but on registration day, the family was told it had to go to a different school.

"It was a little frustrating at that point, because I was confused," Cruz said. "If that's my zoned school, why is my daughter not going there?"

Cruz then made contact with the district and began asking questions.

"I didn't find it acceptable that there may have been other families that dealt with the same situation that I dealt with," he said.

To qualify for free pre-K a child must: be unable to speak or comprehend English, be educationally disadvantaged, homeless, or in a military family. Those are the types of families that Cruz worries may have also been turned away from their designated school, too.

"That bothered me because, what about the other families that don't have transportation, that have a tight schedule and they have to drop their child off when the door opens at 7:30?"

In a statement from CCISD, the district said "Due to privacy laws, the district cannot discuss specific situations... By law, public school districts must give need-based students first priority when programs have openings... Once a student is placed, no parent is ever asked to leave a site or move to another site in order to give that space to another student. If a family’s home campus is full at the time of application, however, they may be offered a space at a campus that has an opening."

Cruz believes that wasn't the case for him and others.

"You're not creating an inclusive environment for our students and families to grow."

Cruz said eventually, after speaking to CCISD about his concerns, his daughter was able to go to her zoned school. Cruz, who is also part of the city's Human Relations Commission, said CCISD is expected to provide an update to the commission about his concerns in March.

The statement from CCISD also states the district hopes to expand the preschool program as space and funding permit. Also, the district has 32 need-based sites, and overall CCISD provides preschool education to about 1,165 students.