San Antonio Plays Moneyball with Pre-K Program

In order to solve local challenges with constrained resources, mayors and others in city governments are playing Moneyball.

Which cities are doing this best? One example is San Antonio, Texas.

In San Antonio, Mayor Julián Castro developed a program focused on high quality pre-kindergarten for four-year-olds known as Pre-K 4 SA. With a focus on evidence and input from stakeholders across the community, Castro was able to win over the support of taxpayers to invest $28 million through a sales tax increase (spread over eight years) to fund the plan.

This program will establish four Model Education Center facilities with full-day pre-K instruction. Over 22,000 four-year-olds will be served over an eight-year period. While far from universal pre-K, the initiative has the potential for significant impact. When all four model education centers are operating, they will collectively have capacity to enroll about 30 percent of San Antonio’s four-year-olds who are eligible for state-funded pre-K but not enrolled in a full-time program.

To ensure that providers are implementing their models with fidelity and actually delivering impact, San Antonio will spend almost $1 million to conduct on-going evaluations over the next eight years.

The city plans to use the results to make funding decisions—deciding whether to continue programs on the basis of their outcomes. Pre-K 4 SA is establishing from the outset that sub-par performance will not be rewarded with subsequent contracts.