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School District Pushing To Increase Pre-K Enrollment

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - There is a big effort underway in the city of Dallas to get more young children into the classroom. It's a push to up the enrollment in pre-k classes.

Claudia Villanueva's students aren't technically school age. But the four-year-olds who attend F.P. Calliet Elementary's pre-kindergarten classes are just the age the Dallas school district is targeting.

Villanueva said she knows why. "They know letters. They know numbers. You can see the difference, even in their vocabulary. Everything is better when you go to early childhood classes."

Starting early means a full day for four-year-olds in neighborhood schools. Pre-kindergarten education isn't new, but leaders in the Dallas Independent School District want it to be the norm.

An all-out recruiting and registration campaign is now underway to get low-income families, those with limited English speaking ability, and other eligible children enrolled in pre-k programs.

Alan Cohen, the DISD Early Childhood Director, had a suggestion for parents. "The best thing they can do for the long term success for their children is to get them into a classroom early."

Cohen believes delays in education result in long-term negative effects. "Particularly for at-risk children," he said. "The longer we wait, the more expensive and the less effective that education is going to be."

DISD officials told CBS 11 News that there are some 4,000 youngsters who should be in pre-k programs, but aren't. The district currently serves almost 10,000 pre-k children citywide.

Ironically, there are some schools with pre-k waiting lists. The district gets funding when children fill classrooms.

Regardless of funding, DISD leaders say the pre-k campaign isn't about cash... it's about kids.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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